Banjul Declaration of the 59th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights under the theme “Women’s Rights: Our Collective Responsibility”



    The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), having convened a series of commemorative activities for the African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women in Africa during its 59th Ordinary Session, which was held from 21 October to 4 November, 2016 in Banjul, The Gambia;

    Affirming that the African Union (AU) has established human rights instruments to promote and protect human rights on the continent, including amongst others: the AU Constitutive Act; the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter); the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol); the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the African Youth Charter; and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance;

    Recalling the AU Agenda 2063, in particular Aspiration Number 3, which calls for “An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law”; and Aspiration Number 6 which calls for “An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth”;

    Further recalling the decision of the Executive Council of the African Union to “… declare 2016 as African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women” through decision EX.CL/Dec.842(XXV) which was adopted during its 25th Ordinary Session, held from 20 to 24 June 2014, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea;

    Recognizing that the African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women in Africa provides a unique opportunity to reaffirm commitment to the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in general and the rights of women in particular;

    Having convened the following interactive panel discussions: a Human Rights dialogue to consider how to strengthen AU institutions, including through improving the rate of compliance of decisions of the African Commission and the African Court; interactive sessions of the respective Special Mechanisms of the African Commission to deliberate on issues relating to their thematic areas and the impact on women; and a Youth Panel to discuss participation of the youth in policy and decision-making, adoption of the African Youth Decade and ratification of the African Youth Charter;

    Commending the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Court), the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the Committee), the AU Department of Political Affairs, State Parties, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) for their participation in the Human Rights dialogue;


    NOW THEREFORE, the African Commission declares the following concerning the Human Rights Dialogue:

    A.     Ratification and Domestication of AU Human Rights Instruments:

    1.     States should adopt strategies which facilitate and expedite the ratification and domestication of human rights instruments;

    2.     States should ensure that they fulfil their reporting obligations under the various human rights instruments; and

    3.     States should establish independent committees of experts at the national level to oversee implementation of human rights treaties.

    B.    Implementation of Decisions of AU Organs with a Human Rights Mandate:

    4.     States should develop and strengthen national follow-up mechanisms for the implementation of human rights decisions, which should include maintaining reliable data and records that support compliance of AU Organs’ decision, in addition to ensuring capacitation of all Government officials to mainstream human rights at the national level;

    5.     AU Organs with human rights mandates should enhance follow-up mechanisms and strategies to identify, intervene, and encourage non-complying State Parties to comply with their obligations under the African Charter, as well as decisions and recommendations of the Organs;

    6.     NHRIs and CSOs should scale up advocacy and lobbying strategies and interventions, in addition to developing guidelines to strengthen collaboration with AU Organs with a human rights mandate, in order to achieve effective implementation and monitoring of States’ international and regional obligations;

    7.     The AU should provide adequate funding to AU Organs with a human rights mandate to strengthen follow-up mechanisms on the implementation of decisions and recommendations; and

    8.     The AU should exercise and invoke Article 23 of the African Union Constitutive Act and impose sanctions on non-complying State Parties.

    C.    Synergy and Coordination between AU Organs with a human rights mandate:

    9.     An MOU should be signed between AU Organs with a human rights mandate and other stakeholders on cooperation and collaboration; and

    10.          AU Organs with a human rights mandate should systematically share their methods of work, activities, best practices, and identify common priorities, challenges, synergies and possible complementarities.

    D.    Human Rights and Transitional Justice:

    11.          States should ensure that the transitional justice systems are infused with and informed by the rights enshrined in the relevant African human and peoples’ rights instruments;

    12.          States and the AU should accelerate the processes of continental integration through establishing an effective continental free trade area  and facilitating free movement of people in Africa;

    13.          States and the AU should accelerate the establishment of the Pan African Human Rights Institute;

    14.          The AU should speed up the process for the adoption of the Transitional Justice Policy; and

    15.          The African Commission should monitor transitional justice in Africa.



    A.    Rights of Women in Africa:

    16.          States should ensure the full ratification, domestication and implementation of the Maputo Protocol;

    17.          States should ensure access to information and services in the area of sexual and reproductive rights and access to safe abortion;

    18.          States should strengthen access to justice for victims of sexual violence and other forms of violence against women, and work towards strengthening justice systems and eradicating a culture of impunity;

    19.          States should ensure the full reparation of victims of sexual violence, particularly in the contexts of conflict;

    20.          States should decriminalize abortion so as to reduce the number of unsafe abortions in Africa; and

    21.          States should address the issue of child marriage, giving special regard to the legitimate age of marriage as prescribed under the Maputo Protocol and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

    B.    Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa:

    22.          States should provide indigenous women with the necessary support in the preservation and protection of their traditional knowledge as they are, in most indigenous communities, the custodians of traditional knowledge together with the elderly;

    23.          States should work towards the recognition of the traditional collective land tenure systems of indigenous populations and adoption of expedient and inexpensive procedures for the issuance of title deeds, and to ensure that indigenous women have equal access to land;

    24.          States should work in close collaboration with indigenous communities and organizations as well as other stakeholders for the elimination of harmful traditional practices within indigenous communities and in this regard, create a conducive environment and platforms for the active involvement and participation of indigenous women in the process; and

    25.          States should redouble their efforts to ensure that indigenous girls and women have access to education, in order to contribute to their eventual empowerment.

    C.    Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons:

    26.          The AU should speed up the process of adopting the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Specific Aspects of the Right to Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa;

    27.          States should ratify and implement the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention), and adopt legislation, policies and programmes to eradicate statelessness, and provide for these measures in their national budget;

    28.          States should take the necessary measures to adequately address the migrant crisis, including by tackling the root causes of the phenomenon;

    29.          The AU and States should develop lasting solutions to addressing the problem of long-term refugees and provide financial support to Member States that are hosting large refugee populations; and

    30.          The AU should expedite the implementation of the Common African Position (CAP) on Humanitarian Effectiveness, in line with the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants of 16 September 2016, towards providing States with the necessary support in the management of humanitarian crises.

    D.    Prevention of Torture:

    31.          States should adopt specific anti-torture legislation, which takes account of the gendered impact of acts of torture and other ill-treatment on women whether perpetrated by individuals in their official or private capacities, and also take the necessary measures to ensure effective implementation of anti-torture legislation;

    32.          States should ensure full redress for victims/survivors of torture, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition, with the victims/survivors participating in the decision-making process;

    33.          States should address impunity by holding perpetrators of acts of torture and other ill-treatment accountable;

    34.          States should ensure that culture is not used as an excuse or justification for the torture or other ill-treatment of women, and practices such as female genital mutilation and wicked widowhood should be outlawed and sanctioned;

    35.          States should put in place effective national preventive measures which may be made operational through National Preventive Mechanisms or other independent bodies such as National Human Rights Institutions;

    36.          States should put in place systematic education, training and sensitization targeting judicial, medical and security personnel, and other relevant actors on the gendered impact of acts of torture and other ill-treatment, such as gender-based violence; and

    37.          International, regional and sub-regional agencies, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and CSOs should support States to implement obligations that ensure eradication of torture and other ill-treatment generally and specifically in relation to women.

    E.    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

    38.          States should adopt legislation, policies and programmes to ensure women’s full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in the African Charter;

    39.          States should reform land tenure legislation to enable women to own and inherit land, introduce and implement sustainable measures to ensure women have access to water and include women in decision making processes on water and land issues; and

    40.          States, NHRIs and CSOs are encouraged to intensify awareness around land and water rights of women, and join the campaign to enable women and girls to have access to land and water.

    F.    Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa:

    41.          States should dedicate additional resources to prisons and places of detention, renovate old prisons, build more prisons and implement the Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) as well as the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women and Non-Custodial Sanctions (the Bangkok Rules);

    42.          States should encourage the use of alternative sentencing in the criminal justice system and establish or designate independent national bodies mandated to undertake regular visits to prisons as well as establish or designate Independent Civilian Police Oversight Institutions, where civilians can freely access and report/complain about cases of abuse and allegations of torture committed by the police;

    43.          States should conduct independent and timely investigation into any assault, including sexual assault, or death in corrective or pre-detention custody, and bring the perpetrators to justice expeditiously;

    44.          States should increase the number of female police officers and provide women’s units in prisons with adequate facilities for female inmates and in particular female inmates with children; and

    45.          States should develop training programmes and provide sufficient human rights training, including training on women’s rights to prison and police officers.

    G.    Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV, and those at risk, vulnerable to and affected by HIV:

    46.          States should develop multi-layered approaches and invest in integrating systems to break the silos. These systems must respond to adolescent girls and young women’s needs, including the availability of integrated sexual and reproductive health and non-communicable diseases services, and routine vaccination and cervical cancer screening;

    47.          States should integrate services against gender-based violence into HIV services, in particular by establishing a well-functioning referral system that includes post-rape care services; and

    48.          States should incorporate Option B+ into National Programmes for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT), take measures to promote the involvement of men in monitoring their wives’ pregnancies, and provide training to health workers on ethical standards and protection of the rights of women in the process of administering healthcare.

    H.    Freedom of Expression and Access to Information:

    49.          States should enact access to information laws in accordance with the African Commission’s Model Law on Access to Information in Africa, and ensure effective implementation of the laws;

    50.          States should establish measures to ensure protection of journalists and other media practitioners, especially female journalists, and to end impunity with regards to attacks on journalists and other media practitioners;

    51.          States should repeal criminal defamation laws or insult laws which impede the right to freedom of expression, and to implement Article 9 of the African Charter and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (the Declaration);

    52.          States should ensure that access to the Internet is not unreasonably limited; and

    53.          The African Commission should encourage State Parties to commemorate the International Day for Universal Access to Information on 28 September annually.

    I.      Human Rights Defenders:

    54.          States should take appropriate measures to recognize the work of Women Rights Defenders;

    55.          States should develop programmes to train law enforcers on women’s rights;

    56.          States should speed up the process of adopting the Maputo Protocol and the Guidelines and Resolutions on Women Rights Defenders; and

    57.          States should specifically adopt laws that protect ‘Women Rights Defenders’ and create a conducive environment for them to carry out their work.

    J.     Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities:

    58.          States should mainstream and integrate older persons’ rights into all laws, policies, plans and programmes, and include older women in policy and decision-making processes; 

    59.          States should introduce holistic and sustainable approaches to address the economic challenges of older women, including but not limited to, the development of social security schemes for older women;

    60.          States should ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons, to enhance the protection of older persons, and older women in particular;

    61.          The AU should expedite the process of adopting the draft Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa; and

    62.          All stakeholders should systematically integrate the issue of accessibility into any policy, programme, project or legislation related to persons with disabilities, as it remains the key challenge in addressing the plight of persons with disabilities, and women with disabilities in particular.

    K.    Death Penalty and Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa:

    63.          States should observe a moratorium on the death penalty and work towards its abolition in law altogether; and

    64.          States should review the measures in place, or that are being undertaken, to combat extra-judicial killings to include domestic violence and all other forms of violence that result in the death of women, including scaling up awareness of its population on the need for the legal abolition of the death penalty through the use of indigenous approaches that are in consonance with human rights standards and principles, amongst others.

    CONCERNING Human rights in Conflict Situations, the African Commission declares the following:

    65.          States should give regard to the gendered nature of conflicts in Africa and the disproportionate impact of conflicts on women and children;

    66.          The AU and affected States should ensure the representation of women and participation of CSOs in mediation and other peace processes;

    67.          The African Commission should intensify its use of the process provided in Article 58 of the African Charter to facilitate implementation of Resolution 332 on Human Rights in Conflict Situations (ACHPR/Res. 332 (EXT.OS/XIX.2016), having due regard to the varied impact of conflicts on various sections of society and the importance of the application of international humanitarian law (IHL) rules;

    68.          The African Commission should follow up on reports of fact-finding and investigation missions, in order to mobilize political action and ensure implementation of recommendations of such reports; and

    69.          The AU and its Organs should ensure enhanced cooperation and coordination, among AU Organs, of efforts in response to armed conflict, with particular attention to the role of the African Commission and its relationship with the Peace and Security Council.

    CONCERNING the Youth in Africa, the African Commission declares:

    70.          States should intensify efforts to popularize the African Youth Charter, including establishing mechanisms to monitor its implementation;

    71.          States should urgently establish mechanisms for investing in the youth, in light of the fact that the youth account for 60% of unemployed Africans; and

    72.          The African Commission should designate a Focal Point on the Youth.




    73.          Calls upon State Parties, with the support of their respective NHRIs, to implement and support the implementation of this Declaration;

    74.          Urges States Parties, NHRIs and CSOs to include a report on the status of implementation of the recommendations in this Declaration at successive Sessions of the African Commission;

    75.          Encourages the Special Mechanisms and Members of the African Commission to follow up on the recommendations in this Declaration, and to provide regular updates on its implementation in the African Commission’s Activity Report to the AU Policy Organs.


    Done in Banjul, The Gambia, this 21st Extraordinary Session, held from 23 February to 4 March 2017


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