Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 March 2017
The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Charter), adopted over two decades ago, entered into force on 21 October 1986. It made provision for the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Commission), which was established in 1987. The purpose of the Commission, according to the Charter, is “to protect human and peoples' rights and ensure their protection in Africa”. But the Commission has not been able to discharge that office satisfactorily. An important reason for the inability of the Commission to attain its principal objective of protecting human rights in Africa is the fact that it has no power to grant a remedy. It has no jurisdiction to make binding decisions against state parties that have violated the provisions of the Charter. Once the Commission reaches a decision on the merits of a case, its only jurisdiction is to make recommendations to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (AHSG) of the Organization of African Unity. But the AHSG itself cannot make binding decisions against state parties. It can only decide to permit publication of their violations.