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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Launch of the Guidelines on Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa

  • ACHPR Session
  • ACHPR Session

Held during the 56th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, The Gambia from 21 April to 7 May 2015

REPORT

 I/INTRODUCTION 

The Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa (‘the Luanda Guidelines’) were officially launched by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘ACHPR’) during its 56th Ordinary Session in Banjul, Gambia on 25 April 2015. 

The Luanda Guidelines were adopted at the 55th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR in Luanda, Angola in 2014 to provide guidance to policy makers and criminal justice practitioners with the aim to strengthen the day-to-day practice of arrest, police custody and pre-trial detention. The Guidelines are an authoritative interpretation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘the African Charter’) and offer specific detail on the measures States Parties to the Charter need to take to uphold, protect and promote the rights of people in the criminal justice system. 

Commission Chairperson, Commissioner Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi, presided over the official launch of the Luanda Guidelines. Formal inputs were provided by, ACHPR Commissioner Med S.K. Kaggwa, ACHPR Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, Niger Police Commissioner Maman Abdel Kader and Ms. Louise Edwards (APCOF).

 

 

 

II/ STATEMENTS FROM THE ACHPR 

Commission Chairperson, Commissioner Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi

The Commission Chairperson welcomed the State delegates and others to the launch, and reiterated the importance of the Luanda Guidelines in promoting a rights-based and African Charter-compliant approach to arrest, police custody and pre-trial detention.   

Commissioner Med S.K. Kaggwa

The first formal input was made by Commissioner Med S.K. Kaggwa, who has led the development of the Luanda Guidelines, in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa. He recalled that the Guidelines were adopted in response to growing concerns about human rights violations in the pre-trial context across Africa. Commissioner Kaggwa linked the Guidelines to fundamental rights enshrined in the African Charter, namely the rights to life, liberty, security and a fair trial, noting that many people experience limitations of these rights under current practices. Commissioner Kaggwa emphasised that working with State Parties, their law enforcement institutions, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations, to implement the Guidelines, is the next important step to improving conditions, procedures and rights of people in pre-trial detention. 

Commissioner Kaggwa provided detail on the methodology used in the development of the Guidelines, including reviews by relevant stakeholders at regional consultations held in Banjul, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Dakar and Tunis, as well as written submissions received following the publication of the draft Guidelines on the ACHPR website. 

Following a brief summary of the contents of the Guidelines, Commissioner Kaggwa concluded by thanking the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (‘APCOF’), Danish Institute for Human Rights (‘DIHR’), the United Nations Development Programme (‘UNDP’) and the Open Society Foundations (‘OSF’) for their technical support, and called on all States to support the Commission’s implementation efforts. 

Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou 

Commissioner Alapini-Gansou, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa began by expressing her support for the adoption of the Luanda Guidelines as a strategic working tool, and as another example of how the ACHPR, with its meager resources, strives to give effect to the African Charter. The Commissioner reiterated earlier comments about the importance of the Luanda Guidelines, given the scale of pre-trial detention in Africa, drawing on a specific example of how the Guidelines could be usefully implemented to promote community-level legal literacy to improve knowledge by people of their rights in the context of arrest, police custody and pre-trial detention. Commissioner Alapini-Gansou concluded by thanking States and the ACHPR partners, APCOF and DIHR, for their support in the development of the Guidelines. 

III/ STATMEMNTS FROM PARTNERS 

Louise Edwards, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

Ms. Edwards extended her thanks to the ACHPR for providing the space for APCOF, to contribute technical assistance in the development and implementation of the Luanda Guidelines. She provided statistics on the prevalence of pre-trial detention globally, and in Africa, and raised a number of areas of human rights concerns as a result of the over-use and poor conditions of pre-trial detention on the continent. 

Ms. Edwards emphasised the importance of the Luanda Guidelines in providing a blueprint for reform of the entire criminal justice chain, reiterating that all key criminal justice stakeholders, including the police, prison services, judiciary, legal aid providers and oversight mechanisms, have a vital role to play in promoting access to justice and human rights. She then highlighted three areas where the Luanda Guidelines contribute to the progressive development in international law, namely, discretion to arrest, rights of persons with disabilities, and in articulating an entire accountability architecture for the criminal justice system. 

Ms. Edwards concluded by noting that projects to promote implementation of the Guidelines in a number of national contexts were in process, and called on all States and their partners to ensure that the Luanda Guidelines are implemented at the continental, regional and national levels. 

Niger Police Commissioner Maman Abdel Kader 

Commissioner Kader made his presentation on behalf of the West African Police and Human Rights Platform (‘POLI.HR’), an initiative of the National Police Services of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali which seeks to promote the protection of human rights, and contribute to the work of the ACHPR. 

Commissioner Kader commended the ACHPR on the adoption of the Guidelines, and linked what he described as an important development by the Commission to the vital work that police organisations do at the regional and national levels, to promote a rights-based approach to arrest and custody. He noted the opportunities for the ACHPR and POLI.HR to collaborate on the implementation of the Guidelines in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Specifically, Commissioner Kader pointed to the utility of the Guidelines in basic and in-service training, in monitoring places of detention, and in relation to the collection and dissemination of statistical data on arrest and persons in police custody. 

Commissioner Kader also emphasised the role that platforms such as POLI.HR can play in sensitising the ACHPR to the policing terrain at the sub-regional and national level, which can assist the ACHPR in finessing its implementation work with police organisations. The Commissioner concluded by offering POLI.HR’s expertise to the ACHPR in the implementation of the Guidelines. 

IV/OFFICIAL LAUNCH 

Following the formal presentations from the panel, the Guidelines were officially launched.