The Fight for Human Rights in Africa: Perspectives on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights page – 3

Rights & Democracy

Foreword

2008 is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. In the decades that followed the adoption of the Declaration, human rights norms and institutions have expanded and deepened around the world. Included amongst these is the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission), which in 2007 celebrated its 20th anniversary.

The African Commission is Africa’s key regional institution charged with the promotion and protection of human rights. Over time, as the African Commission has slowly but surely expanded its reach in Africa, and consequently the space to fight for human rights, human rights actors on and outside the continent have taken notice; Rights & Democracy is one such actor. Rights & Democracy is a pioneer Canadian institution that supports human rights and democratic development around the world, and celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2008.

For the last 15 years, the African Commission and Rights & Democracy have cooperated at opportune moments. In 2005, the African Commission and Rights & Democracy entered into a partnership which for the first time saw Canadian lawyers posted to the African Commission’s Secretariat in Banjul, The Gambia, for 2 years. Working with and learning from their colleagues at the Secretariat, these Canadians were able to make important contributions to the fulfilment of the Commission’s mandate. Drawing on their experiences, these Canadians describe in the chapters of this volume the African Commission’s mandate and opportunities for human rights promotion and protection in Africa.

The growing commitment of African states to Africa’s human rights system is in part evidenced by the fact that some of the opportunities described and analyzed in this volume’s chapters are already becoming reality. Indeed, changes in the African human rights system are occurring faster than we can write about them.

As this goes to press, it is expected that at the Eleventh Assembly of the African Union from 30 June to 1 July 2008 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Africa’s Heads of State will adopt a single legal instrument merging the Court of Justice of the African Union and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This historic decision reflects the tireless efforts of African Union officials, African Union member states, and civil society activists from across the continent to continue reinforcing Africa’s human rights mechanisms. The next step is for all African Union member states to ratify and sign the protocol recognizing the jurisdiction of the new African Court of Justice and Human Rights – which we call on them to do as soon as possible and without reservation.

We hope that stories in this publication contribute to the positive momentum currently driving the African human rights system, and serve to educate, inform, and motivate human rights practitioners in Africa and around the world.

Sanji Mmasenono Monageng
Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Rémy Beauregard
President of Rights & Democracy