The function of Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention was created during the 20th Ordinary Session of the Commission, following the Seminar on Prison Conditions in Africa (Kampala, 19 - 21 September 1996). It is therefore one of the oldest Special Mechanisms. The Special Rapporteur is empowered to examine the situation of persons deprived of their liberty within the territories of States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. Resolution 37 adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at the 25th Ordinary Session held in Bujumbura, Burundi form 26 April to 5 May 1999, extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. The mandate was most recently renewed with the adoption of Resolution 156 at the 46th Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, in November 2009.
The various Special Rapporteurs have been quite active, among others by holding missions to the various State Parties – since 1997, over 20 missions have taken place.