Eleventh Annual Activity Report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, 1997/98, 22nd and 23rd Ordinary Sessions, 2-11 November 1997 and 20-29 April 1998: Banjul, Gambia


A. Period Covered by the Report

1. The Tenth Annual Activity report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights was adopted by the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity in its decision AHG/DEC 123(XXXIII) taken during its meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, from 2 - 4 June 1997. The Eleventh Annual Activity Report covers the 22nd and 23rd Ordinary Sessions held in Banjul, Gambia, from 2-11 November 1997 and from 20-29 April 1998 respectively. The addendum to this document concerns the part of the report covering the 23rd session.

B. Status of Ratification

2. All the Member States of the OAU, with the exception of Eritrea and Ethiopia have ratified or acceded to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Annex I contains the list of States parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights indicating inter alia the dates of signature, ratification or accession, as well as the date of deposit of the instruments of ratification or accession as the case may be.

C. Sessions and Agenda

3. The Commission held two ordinary sessions since the adoption of the Tenth Annual Activity Report in June 1997:

- The 22nd Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, the Headquarters of the Commission, from 2-11 November 1997;
- The 23rd Ordinary Session held in Banjul, from 20-29 April 1998. The agenda of each of these sessions is attached to this report.

D. Composition and Participation

4. The following Commissioners attended the 22nd Session:

a. Mr. Youssoupha Ndiaye, Chairman
b. Dr. Vera V. Duarte Martins, Vice Chairman
c. Dr. Mohamed Hatem. Ben Salem
d. Prof. Emmanuel V.O. Dankwa
e. Dr. Nyameko Barney Pityana
f. Dr. Ibrahim Badawi El Sheikh
g. Mrs. Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga
h. Mr. Kamel Rezzag-Bara
i. Prof. Isaac Nguema

Messrs Alioune Blondin Beye and Atsu Kofi-Amega were absent from the proceedings However, Mr. Blondin Beye sent an apology.

5. The representatives of the following States attended the 22nd Session and made statements before the Commission:
* Burundi, Cameroun, Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, Niger, Togo, Gambia ,Burkina Faso

6. A number of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and a national human rights institution also attended the proceedings.

7. Swearing in

8. The newly elected members of the Commission were sworn in. They are:
* Mr. Ben Salem
* Dr. Nyameko Barney Pityana
* Dr. Ibrahim Badawi El Sheikh.

9. Commissioners Youssoupha Ndiaye and Vera Valentino De Melo Duarte Martins were elected Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Commission respectively at the 23rd session.

10. The following members of the Commission attended the 23rd ordinary session :
a. Mr. Youssoupha Ndiaye, Chairman
b. Dr. Vera V. Duarte Martins, Vice Chairman
c. Prof. Isaac Nguema, member
d. Prof. Emmanuel V.O. Dankwa, member
e. Dr. Mohamed Hatem Ben Salem , member
f. Mme Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga, member
g. Mr. Kamel Rezzag-Bara, member
h. Dr. Nyameko Barney Pityana, member
i. Dr. Ibrahim Badawi El Sheikh , member

11. Messrs. Atsu-Koffi Amega and Alioune Blondin Beye were absent with apologies.

12. The representatives of the following States participated in the proceedings of the 23rd session and some of them made statements : Gambia, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Namibia, the Republic of Guinea, Nigeria, Mozambique.

13. Many Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and National Institutions also took part in the proceedings of the 23rd session.

14. Adoption of the 11th Annual Activity Report

The Commission considered and adopted the eleventh annual activity report at its sitting of 29 April 1998.


A. Consideration of Periodic Reports

15. Under Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, each State Party undertakes to submit a report every two years on the legislative and other measures it takes to give effect to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter.

16. The Republic of Chad and the Republic of Seychelles sent their periodic reports to the Secretariat, but these were not considered by the Commission as there were no official delegations to present them.

17. The periodic reports of the Republic of Namibia and the Republic of Guinea were presented at the 23rd session. The Commission praised the quality of the reports and thanked the representatives for their presentation.

18. The Commission considered several proposals for improving the operation of the reporting system and examined a draft amendment of the guidelines on the preparation of the said periodic reports.

19. As at the 22nd session, thirty-three (33) State parties had not yet submitted their periodic reports .

B. Promotional Activities

20. The Chairman met with the OAU Secretary General in Addis Ababa in December 1997 and discussed with him administrative, financial and other matters.He also met with the President of the Republic of The Gambia in January 1998 and discussed with him the question of the Headquarters of the Commission. The Chairman further intervened with the Governments of Mauritania and Djibouti in emergency situations.

21. All the members reported on the human rights promotional and/or protective activities they participated in during the intersession.

22. The Commission cosponsored or organized the following meetings, seminars and international conferences :

1. The second workshop on the improvement of the regional human rights systems, 17-18 November 1997, Lisbon, Portugal;

2. International Conference on Community Work, 24-28 November 1997, Kadoma, Zimbabwe with Penal Reform International (PRI);

3. The meeting of government experts on the establishment of an African Human and Peoples' Rights Court, 8-12 December 1997, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia;

4. The African contexts of the rights of the child, 12-14 January 1998, Harare, Zimbabwe, with CODESRIA, Redd Barna-Zimbabwe and the Centre for Family Research of the University of Cambridge;

5. Working Group on the additional protocol to the African Charter on women's rights, 26- 28 January 1998, Banjul, The Gambia, with the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ);

6. International Conference on HIV/AIDS in African Prisons, 16-18 February 1998, Dakar, Senegal, with the International Observatory of Prisons (OIP);

7. Regional Seminar on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 9-12 March 1998, in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

23. The Commission heard the statements of several NGOs on the human rights situation in Rwanda, Burundi, Congo (Brazzaville), Mauritania, Algeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon.

24. Among the issues raised were those concerning women's rights in general, female genital mutilation, refugees, prison conditions, slavery, extrajudicial executions, restriction of the freedom of association, assembly, expression, torture, poverty, unemployment, discrimination.

25. Following the information provided by representatives of Amnesty International on the imminent execution of 23 persons in Rwanda accused of participation in the genocide of 1994, the Commission immediately requested the Rwandan government to stay this execution in order to enable it to take a position on the matter on the basis of the complaint submitted by Amnesty.

26. The Commission discussed the Celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, as well as the preparation of the next Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Luanda.

27. The Commission also discussed the distribution of States parties among its members for the purpose of promotion, organisation of seminars and conferences, the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the publication of its Review and other aspects of promotional work.

28. The resolution adopted by the Commission on the International Criminal Court is attached as an annex.


29. At the 23rd session, Commissioner Ben Salem presented the final report on the summary, arbitrary and extrajudicial executions in Rwanda, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This report contains the names of people about whom the special rapporteur is expecting information from the States concerned.


30. Commissioner E.V.O. Dankwa, Special Rapporteur on Prison and Detention Conditions in Africa submitted his second report. He spoke about his activities during the intersession when he attended various symposia and visited several detention centres inter alia in Mozambique and Madagascar.

31. The special rapporteur visited inter alia the prisons in Mali and studied the prison conditions of this country. His recommendations for the improvement of the Malian prison conditions will be submitted to the government. The special rapporteur expressed appreciation for the assistance rendered to him by the NGO Penal Reform International (PRI).

32. At the 23d session, Commissioner Dankwa presented his third report. In it he mentions his visits to prisons and other places of detention, meetings with government authorities, participation in seminars on African prisons.



33. The working group already set up for the elaboration of an additional protocol to the Charter on the rights of women met from 26-28 January 1998. The group was expanded to include the International Commission of Jurists and the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies. The said group prepared the terms of reference of the special rapporteur and presented a report at the 23rd session. Upon its proposal, Mme Julienne Ondziel-Gnelenga was appointed special rapporteur on the rights of women. She is expected to present an interim report at the 24th session.


34. The Commission deferred to the 23rd ordinary session consideration of the reports on the missions undertaken in Sudan and Nigeria. This session discussed Commissioner Dankwa's report on Sudan.


35. At the 23rd session, observer status was granted to nineteen Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which brings the number of NGOs with observer status to 224. The 23rd session granted such status to 7 NGOs. This gives a total of 231.

36. With regard to the relations with National Human Rights Institutions, the Commission deferred the consideration of applications for observer status from National Human Rights Institutions.

37. On the same issue of relations between the Commission and observers, it was noticed that only thirty percent of observers complied with the obligation to submit reports on their activities to the Commission every two years. The Commission further noticed that some of these NGOs cut off all contact with it once they obtained observer status. The Commissions decided to review the criteria for granting observer status.



38. The Commission considered seventy-two communications. It made a ruling on the merits of four of them. For the others, it acknowledged receipt or ruled on their admissibility .

In this regard, the Commission invited reflection on the reasons for the reduction in the number of communications submitted to it. It also noted that the non compliance by some States parties with the Commission's recommendations affects its credibility and may partly explain that fewer complaints are submitted to it.



a. Administrative matters

39. The Commission examined the resources at its disposal for its functioning and expressed satisfaction at the improvement of its working conditions thanks to the additional human and financial resources provided by its partners.

The Commission also expressed its appreciation for the measures taken by the Council of Ministers of the OAU at its 67th Ordinary Session with a view to implementing the decisions and resolutions of the Assembly of the Head of States and Government of the OAU directing that the African Commission be provided with adequate financial, human and material resources for its efficient functioning

b) Financial Matters

40. During the financial year under review, the Commission obtained funding from the following sources:

1) OAU Budget

* Due to financial problems facing the OAU, several projects of the Commission had to be suspended. This only slowed down the activities of the Commission and worsened its situation.

2) Assistance from the African Society of International Comparative Law

* The African Society provided the Commission with two jurists from 30th August 1997 for a renewable period of one year. It also provided two computers and a printer. This somewhat improved the working conditions in the Secretariat.

3) Assistance from the Danish Centre for Human Rights

* The Danish Centre for Human Rights provided a computer expert for a period of 9 months. He is responsible for the setting up of a computerised data base on the Commissions jurisprudence, the management of its relations with States parties and NGOs with observer status, the dissemination of information on human rights in Africa for the general public... etc.

4) Assistance from the European Union

* The European Union in collaboration with the African Society for International Comparative Law provided the Commission with a jurist responsible inter alia for the dissemination of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the human rights promotional activities, the organization of sensitization seminars intended for target groups across the continent, etc.

5) Assistance from the United Nations High Commission for Human

* The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights granted financial assistance to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights for the preparation of a Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, the organisation of the Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa to he held in November 1998 in Luanda, Angola, the preparation of human rights training manuals, of training courses and seminars on human rights, as well as for the improvement of the system for handling communications and periodic reports of States parties, etc.

6) Assistance from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation

* The Friedrich Naumann Foundation assists the Commission in its fund raising efforts with foreign partners, as well as in the strengthening of its relations with the latter.

40. The Commission considered several proposals for improving working methods.


41. After considering this Report, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government adopted it by a resolution which took note of the Report with satisfaction and authorized its publication.

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