Missions Undertaken by the Commission

The primary mandate of the Commission is to enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa and to ensure that member states comply with their obligations undertaken under the Charter. Article 46 of the Charter which requires the Commission to use ‘any appropriate method of investigation’ is the legal basis for missions. Promotional missions are governed by the Commission’s Guidelines for Missions and the Format for Pre-mission Reports. The Commission also draws up terms of reference for each promotional mission.

Since its establishment, the Commission has undertaken two categories of missions: protective mission and promotional missions. Special Rapporteurs also undertake missions focusing on human rights violations within their mandates.

Protective missions (on-site and fact-finding)

There are two types of protective mission: on-site mission and factfinding mission. The on-site mission is usually undertaken to a state against which a number of communications have been submitted. The purpose of such mission usually is to explore avenue for amicable settlement or to investigate specific facts relating to the communications. The Commission may also undertake fact-finding missions whenever there is an allegation of a general nature or widespread reports of human rights violations against a state party. Fact-findings missions do not require any prior communication to have been submitted to the Commission before the mission is undertaken.

Promotional missions

Promotional visits or missions are undertaken by the Commission or its Special Mechanisms to sensitise states about the role of the African Charter, encourage states which have not ratified the Charter or any other human rights instrument to ratify them or to persuade nonreporting states to comply with their reporting obligations. For the purpose of promotional visits, the 53 state parties of the African Charter are distributed among the Commissioners.

Obligations of states during a protection mission

State parties must:

  1. Refrain from taking reprisal action against persons or entities that furnished the mission with information, testimony or evidence
  2. Guarantee free movement of members of the mission including any necessary internal authorisation
  3. Provide the mission with any information or document which the mission considers necessary in order to prepare its report
  4. Take steps to protect members of the mission.

Role of civil society

Civil society facilitates the Commission’s decision to undertake missions by raising concerns on gross human rights violations. They usually accompany the Commission/Commissioners during visits and are known for playing the role of interlocutors.

 

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