Appendix 6.1 African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights (Extracts)
The Heads of State of the Organisation of African Unity at their meeting in Nairobi in July 1981 approved the Charter unanimously. The text printed here is that which was approved at the OAU Ministerial Conference in Banjul, the Gambia, in January 1981 and is believed to be the correct text of the Charter as approved at Nairobi.
PARTI: RIGHTS AND DUTIES
The Member States of the Organization of African Unity parties to the present charter shall recognize the right, duties and freedoms enshrined in this Charter and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
- Every individual shall be equal before the law.
- Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.
Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and in the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.
Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.
Every individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his freedom except for reasons and conditions previously laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained.
- Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises:
(a) The right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts violating his fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations and customs in force;
(b) the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or tribunal;
(c) the right to defence, including the right to be defended by counsel of his choice;
(d) the right to be tried within a reasonable time by an impartial court or tribunal.
- No one may be condemned for an act or omission which did not constitute a legally punishable offence at the time it was committed. No penalty may be inflicted for an offence for which no provision was made at the time it was committed. Punishment is personal and can be imposed only on the offender.
Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.
- Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
- Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.
- Every individual shall have the right to free association provided that he abides by the law.
- Subject to the obligation of solidarity provided for in Article 29 no one may be compelled to join an association.
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and freedoms of others.
- Every individual shall have the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of a State provided he abides by the law.
- Every individual shall have the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country. This right may only be subject to restrictions, provided for by law for the protection of national security, law and order, public health or morality.
- Every individual shall have the right, when persecuted, to seek and obtain asylum in other countries in accordance with the laws of those countries and international conventions.
- A non-national legally admitted in a territory of a State Party to the present Charter, may only be expelled from it by virtue of a decision taken in accordance with the law.
- The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited. Mass expulsion shall be that which is aimed at national, racial, ethnic or religious groups.
- Every citizen shall have the right to freely participate in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.
- Every citizen shall have the right of equal access to the public service of his country.
- Every individual shall have the right of access to public property and services in strict equality of all persons before the law.
The right to property shall be guaranteed. It may only be encroached upon in the interest of public need or in the general interest of the community and in accordance with the provisions of appropriate laws.
Every individual shall have the right to work under equitable and satisfactory conditions and shall receive equal pay for equal work.
- Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental health.
- State Parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical attention when they are sick.
- Every individual shall have the right to education.
- Every individual may freely, take part in the cultural life of his community.
- The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognized by the community shall be the duty of the State.
- The family shall be the natural unit and basis of society. It shall be protected by the State.
- The State shall have the duty to assist the family which is the custodian of morals and traditional values recognized by the community.
- The State shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as stipulated in international declarations and conventions.
- The aged and the disabled shall also have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs.
All peoples shall be equal; they shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by another.
- All people shall have the right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their political status and shall pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they have freely chosen.
- Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community.
- All peoples shall have the right to the assistance of the States Parties to the present Charter in their liberation struggle against foreign domination, be it political, economic or cultural.
- All peoples shall freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. In no case shall a people be deprived of it.
- In case of spoliation the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation.
- The free disposal of wealth and natural resources shall be exercised without prejudice to the obligation of promoting international economic cooperation based on mutual respect, equitable exchange and the principles of international law.
- States Parties to the present Charter shall individually and collectively exercise the right to free disposal of their wealth and natural resources with a view to strengthening African unity and solidarity.
- States Parties to the present Charter shall undertake to eliminate all forms of foreign economic exploitation particularly that practised by international monopolies so as to enable their peoples to fully benefit from the advantages derived from their national resources.
- All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind.
- States shall have the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the right to development.
- All peoples shall have the right to national and international peace and security. The principles of solidarity and friendly relations implicitly affirmed by the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirmed by that of the Organization of African Unity shall govern relations between States.
- For the purpose of strengthening peace, solidarity and friendly relations, States parties to the present Charter shall ensure that:
(a) any individual enjoying the right of asylum under Article 12 of the present Charter shall not engage in subversive activities against his country of origin or any other State party to the present Charter;
(b) their territories shall not be used as bases for subversive or terrorist activities against the people of any other State party to the present Charter.
All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.
States parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to promote and ensure through teaching, education and publication, the respect of the rights and freedoms contained in the present Charter and to see to it that these freedoms and rights as well as corresponding obligations and duties are understood.
States parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to guarantee the independence of the Courts and shall allow the establishment and improvement of appropriate national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the present Charter.
- Every individual shall have duties towards his family and society, the State and other legally recognized communities and the international community.
- The rights and freedoms of each individual shall be exercised with due regard to the rights of others, collective security, morality and common interest.
Every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance.
The individual shall also have the duty:
- To preserve the harmonious development of the family and to work for the cohesion and respect of the family, to respect his parents at all times, to maintain them in case of need;
- To serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its service;
- Not to compromise the security of the State whose national or resident he is;
- To preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity, particularly when the latter is threatened;
- To preserve and strengthen the national independence and the territorial integrity of his country and to contribute to its defence in accordance with the law;
- To work to the best of his abilities and competence, and to pay taxes imposed by law in the interest of the society;
- To preserve and strengthen positive African cultural values in his relations with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and consultation and, in general, to contribute to the promotion of the moral well being of society;
- To contribute to the best of his abilities, at all times and at all levels, to the promotion and achievement of African unity.
An African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, hereinafter called “the Commission”, shall be established within the Organization of African Unity to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa.
The functions of the Commission shall be:
- To promote Human and Peoples’ Rights and in particular:
(a) To collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples’ rights, organize seminars, symposia and conferences, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples’ rights, and should the case arise, give its views or make recommendations to Governments.
(b) To formulate and lay down, principles and rules aimed at solving legal problems relating to human and peoples’ rights and fundamental freedoms upon which African Governments may base their legislations.
(c) Co-operate with other African and international institutions concerned with the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights.
- Ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights under conditions laid down by the present Charter.
- Interpret all the provisions of the present Charter at the request of a State Party, an institution of the OAU or an African organization recognized by the OAU.
- Perform any other tasks which may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
The Commission shall draw inspiration from international law on human and peoples’ rights, particularly from the provisions of various African instruments on human and peoples’ rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other instruments adopted by the United Nations and by African countries in the field of human and peoples’ rights as well as from the provisions of various instruments adopted within the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations of which the parties of the present Charter are members.
The Commission shall also take into consideration, as subsidiary measures to determine the principles of law, other general or special international conventions, laying down rules expressly recognized by member States of the Organization of African Unity, African practices consistent with international norms on human and peoples’ rights, customs generally accepted as law, general principles of law recognized by African states as well as legal precedents and doctrine.
Each State party shall undertake to submit every two years, from the date the present Charter comes into force, a report on the legislative or other measures taken with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed by the present Charter.
- The present Charter shall be open to signature, ratification or adherence of the member states of the Organization of African Unity.
- The instrument of ratification or adherence to the present Charter shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity.
- The present Charter shall come into force three months after the reception by the Secretary General of the instruments of ratification or adherence by a simple majority of the member states of the Organization of African Unity.