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Print this pageGlossary: The African Human Rights System




Child Rights International Network

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The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights: quasi-judicial body established on 21 October 1986 to promote and protect human rights throughout Africa and to interpret and monitor the implementation of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: The core human rights instrument which sets out the rights that States parties to the Charter must ensure for their citizens and the duties and responsibilities that citizens have to their family, community and to the State.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: This spells out the rights that African States must ensure for children living in their jurisdiction. It is the main instrument of the African human rights system for promoting and protecting child rights.

African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child: The body of 11 members that monitors States’ implementation of the African Charter of the Rights on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

African Court: The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, was set up to complement the African Commission’s mandate to examine individual and inter-State complaints.

African Union: a multi-lateral organisation which promotes cooperation on economic and political issues and in other areas of common interest.

African Union Assembly of Heads of State: decision-making body of the African Union


Burden of proof:
The ‘burden of proof’ in the African human rights system lies with the State: in other words, a party seeking to invoke a limitation to a right must provide a reasoned justification for doing so.


any person, Member State, group or non-governmental organisation recognised by the African Union or the UN may submit a written communication to the African Committee of Experts to allege a violation of rights enshrined in the African Charter.

Complainant: someone who submits a communication to the African Committee of Experts alleging a violation of one or more of the rights protected by the African Charter.

Constitutive Act: document establishing the African Union. It was signed on 11 July 2000 in Lomé, Togo.


Organisation of African Unity:
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the first regional body created in 1963 primarily to help liberate African States from colonisation, eradicate apartheid and promote economic cooperation among Member States.


A formal text adopted by United Nations and regional mechanisms, or other inter-governmental bodies.

Robben Island Guidelines: Another name for The Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights at its 32nd Session, 17 - 23 October, 2002 in Banjul, The Gambia.


Special mechanisms:
The African Commission has established a number of special mechanisms to monitor thematic issues of concern in the region. They are formed of individual experts or working groups. These are: prisons, women, freedom of expression, human rights defenders, refugees and displaced persons, extrajudicial executions, specific issues, indigenous populations, economic, social and cultural rights, Robben Island Guidelines, death penalty.

State Party: A State that has ratified a treaty is called a State party to that treaty.


Working groups: These are a special mechanism of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Formed of a group of independent experts which includes one member of the Commission, they are set up on an ad-hoc basis to investigate and monitor thematic areas of human rights of particular concern.

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Last updated 18/10/2007 12:10:40

Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.

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