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Public International Law Research

A guide that highlights resources and recommended strategies for conducting research on international law topics.

African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

General Overview

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Right ("ACHPR") came into force on January 25, 2004 and was established via Article I of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (the "Protocol"). The court's chief purpose is to enhance the protective mandate of African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the "Charter") by strengthening the human rights protection system in Africa.

Currently, nine of the thirty States Parties to the Charter have recognized the competence of the court to receive cases from NGOs and individuals. The following chart illustrates the jurisdiction of the ACHPR:

Contentious Jurisdiction Under Article 3 of the Protocol, the Court has jurisdiction to deal with all cases and disputes submitted to it regarding the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol, and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the concerned States. 
Advisory Jurisdiction Under Article 4 of the Protocol, the Court may, at the request of a Member State of the African Union, any of the organs of the African Union, or any African organization recognized by the African Union, provide an opinion on any legal matter relating to the Charter or any other relevant human rights instruments, provided that the subject matter of the opinion is not related to a matter being examined by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Note: In 2009, the African Union began to explore the possibility of merging the ACHPR into a larger court, the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, that would also have jurisdiction to try international crimes. This enlarged judicial body would also have the authority to consider cases of unconstitutional change or prolongation of government as new crimes. You can view the proposed court's status and founding documents here, but this court is not yet operational.

Online ACHPR Primary Materials

Online Primary ACHPR Materials

Core Texts of the ACHPR

The following collection contains the main legal tools that provide for the creation and maintenance of the ACHPR. These materials include the rules of court, practice directions, and the underlying foundation documents for the court:

  • African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (the "Charter")
  • Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (the "Protocol")
  • Rules of the Court
  • Practice Directions

If you are interested in other documents related to the work of the ACHPR, please visit this link. The "Other Relevant Documents" page on the ACHPR's website links to conventions on the rights of children and women, resolutions on terrorism, a common defense pact, and a convention governing African refugees.


The ACHPR's website also provides access to the judicial decisions of the court. These decisions include rulings on both contentious matters and advisory proceedings. In addition to court orders and decisions, you will also find links to statistical overviews of the court's caseload and a variety of related court filings for each case.

Other Publications

The ACHPR's website also provides access to publications of the court. These publications include the following types of content: 

  • Activity Reports - These reports will likely be of great use to researchers, as they provide concise overviews of the caseload handled by the ACPHR each year. Each case is listed in a table, along with summaries of court orders and updates on the implementation (or nonimplementation) of the court's decisions in the respective countries that were a party to the suit.
  • African Human Rights Yearbook - This publication is a collection of essays from scholars and is currently contained in a two volume set, which is downloadable for free online. The African Human Rights Yearbook seeks to provide a forum for "constructive engagement about the African human rights system with academics and other human rights commentators on the continent" and is published with the support of the the ACHPR, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. 
  • Other Reports - This category provides access to reports targeting larger African human rights issues of importance to the court. For instance, there is a Final Communique detailing the outcomes of the 3rd African Judicial Dialogue on the theme of "Improving Judicial Efficiency in Africa."

Secondary Sources