African (BANJUL) Charter on Human
and Peoples' Rights
(Adopted 27 June 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev.
5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982), entered into force 21 October
The African States members of the Organization
of African Unity, parties to the present convention
entitled "African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Recalling Decision 115 (XVI) of the Assembly of
Heads of State and Government at its Sixteenth Ordinary
Session held in Monrovia, Liberia, from 17 to 20
July 1979 on the preparation of a "preliminary
draft on an African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Rights providing inter alia for the establishment
of bodies to promote and protect human and peoples'
Considering the Charter of the Organization of
African Unity, which stipulates that "freedom,
equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives
for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations
of the African peoples";
Reaffirming the pledge they solemnly made in Article
2 of the said Charter to eradicate all forms of
colonialism from Africa, to coordinate and intensify
their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better
life for the peoples of Africa and to promote international
cooperation having due regard to the Charter of
the United Nations. and the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights;
Taking into consideration the virtues of their
historical tradition and the values of African civilization
which should inspire and characterize their reflection
on the concept of human and peoples' rights;
Recognizing on the one hand, that fundamental human
rights stem from the attributes of human beings
which justifies their national and international
protection and on the other hand that the reality
and respect of peoples rights should necessarily
guarantee human rights;
Considering that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms
also implies the performance of duties on the part
of everyone; Convinced that it is henceforth essential
to pay a particular attention to the right to development
and that civil and political rights cannot be dissociated
from economic, social and cultural rights in their
conception as well as universality and that the
satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights
ia a guarantee for the enjoyment of civil and political
Conscious of their duty to achieve the total liberation
of Africa, the peoples of which are still struggling
for their dignity and genuine independence, and
undertaking to eliminate colonialism, neo-colonialism,
apartheid, zionism and to dismantle aggressive foreign
military bases and all forms of discrimination,
particularly those based on race, ethnic group,
color, sex. language, religion or political opinions;
Reaffirming their adherence to the principles of
human and peoples' rights and freedoms contained
in the declarations, conventions and other instrument
adopted by the Organization of African Unity, the
Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the United
Firmly convinced of their duty to promote and protect
human and people' rights and freedoms taking into
account the importance traditionally attached to
these rights and freedoms in Africa;
Have agreed as follows:
Part I: Rights and Duties
Chapter I: Human and Peoples' Rights
The Member States of the Organization of African
Unity parties to the present Charter shall recognize
the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in this
Chapter 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, color, 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 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
of 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 defense, 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
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 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 laws of those countries and international
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 participate
freely 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
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
States 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 which
shall take care of its physical health and moral.
The State shall have the duty to assist the family
which is the custodian or 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
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 peoples 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
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 practiced 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 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 favorable 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.
Chapter II: Duties
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 defense in accordance with
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.
Part II: Measures of Safeguard
Chapter I: Establishment and Organization of the
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
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 Commission shall consist of eleven members
chosen from amongst African personalities of the
highest reputation, known for their high morality,
integrity, impartiality and competence in matters
of human and peoples' rights; particular consideration
being given to persons having legal experience.
The members of the Commission shall serve in their
The Secretary General of the Organization of African
Unity shall appoint the Secretary of the Commission.
He shall also provide the staff and services necessary
for the effective discharge of the duties of the
Commission. The Organization of African Unity shall
bear the costs of the staff and services ...
Chapter II -- Mandate of the Commission
The functions of the Commission shall be:
To promote Human and Peoples' Rights and in particular:
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
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.
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.
Chapter III -- Procedure of the Commission
The Commission may resort to any appropriate method
of investigation; it may hear from the Secretary
General of the Organization of African Unity or
any other person capable of enlightening it.
Communication from States
If a State party to the present Charter has good
reasons to believe that another State party to this
Charter has violated the provisions of the Charter,
it may draw, by written communication, the attention
of that State to the matter. This communication
shall also be addressed to the Secretary General
of the OAU and to the Chairman of the Commission.
Within three months of the receipt of the communication,
the State to which the communication is addressed
shall give the enquiring State, written explanation
or statement elucidating the matter. This should
include as much as possible relevant information
relating to the laws and rules of procedure applied
and applicable, and the redress already given or
course of action available.
If within three months from the date on which the
original communication is received by the State
to which it is addressed, the issue is not settled
to the satisfaction of the two States involved through
bilateral negotiation or by any other peaceful procedure,
either State shall have the right to submit the
matter to the Commission through the Chairman and
shall notify the other States involved.
Notwithstanding the provisions of 47, if a State
party to the present Charter considers that another
State party has violated the provisions of the Charter,
it may refer the matter directly to the Commission
by addressing a communication to the Chairman, to
the Secretary General of the Organization of African
Unity and the State concerned.
The Commission can only deal with a matter submitted
to it after making sure that all local remedies,
if they exist, have been exhausted, unless it is
obvious to the Commission that the procedure of
achieving these remedies would be unduly prolonged.
The Commission may ask the States concerned to
provide it with all relevant information.
When the Commission is considering the matter, States
concerned may be represented before it and submit
written or oral representation.
After having obtained from the States concerned
and from other sources all the information it deems
necessary and after having tried all appropriate
means to reach an amicable solution based on the
respect of Human and Peoples' Rights, the Commission
shall prepare, within a reasonable period of time
from the notification referred to in 48, a report
stating the facts and its findings. This report
shall be sent to the States concerned and communicated
to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
While transmitting its report, the Commission may
make to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government
such recommendations as it deems useful.
The Commission shall submit to each ordinary Session
of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government
a report on its activities.
Before each Session, the Secretary of the Commission
shall make a list of the communications other than
those of States parties to the present Charter and
transmit them to the members of the Commission,
who shall indicate which communications should be
considered by the Commission.
A communication shall be considered by the Commission
if a simple majority of its members so decide.
Communications relating to human and peoples' rights
referred to in 55 received by the Commission, shall
be considered if they:
Indicate their authors even if the latter request
Are compatible with the Charter of the Organization
of African Unity or with the present Charter,
Are not written in disparaging or insulting language
directed against the State concerned and its institutions
or to the Organization of African Unity,
Are not based exclusively on news discriminated
through the mass media,
Are sent after exhausting local remedies, if any,
unless it is obvious that this procedure is unduly
Are submitted within a reasonable period from the
time local remedies are exhausted or from the date
the Commission is seized of the matter, and
Do not deal with cases which have been settled by
these States involved in accordance with the principles
of the Charter of the United Nations, or the Charter
of the Organization of African Unity or the provisions
of the present Charter.
Prior to any substantive consideration, all communications
shall be brought to the knowledge of the State concerned
by the Chairman of the Commission.
When it appears after deliberations of the Commission
that one or more communications apparently relate
to special cases which reveal the existence of a
series of serious or massive violations of human
and peoples' rights, the Commission shall draw the
attention of the Assembly of Heads of State and
Government to these special cases.
The Assembly of Heads of State and Government may
then request the Commission to undertake an in-depth
study of these cases and make a factual report,
accompanied by its findings and recommendations.
A case of emergency duly noticed by the Commission
shall be submitted by the latter to the Chairman
of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government
who may request an in-depth study.
All measures taken within the provisions of the
present Chapter shall remain confidential until
such a time as the Assembly of Heads of State and
Government shall otherwise decide. . . .
The report on the activities of the Commission
shall be published by its Chairman after it has
been considered by the Assembly of Heads of State
Chapter IV -- Applicable Principles
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 Specialized
Agencies of the United Nations of which the parties
to 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 people's 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...