An African instrument to protect human rights while respecting the sovereignty of the States

Strengthening the protection of the right to life in Africa

To supplement and strengthen the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 66 of the Charter authorises the adoption of Protocols or special agreements. It is on this basis that the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) – the African Union (AU) authority responsible for promoting and protecting human rights in Africa – proposed that the AU adopt a specific protocol that specifies that "the right to life is the foundation of all the other rights" and that "the abolition of the death penalty is vital for the effective protection" of this right.

In the conclusion of its 2011 Study on the question of the death penalty in Africa , the ACHPR recommended “to the African Union and to State Parties the adoption of a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa under any circumstances [to] fill the gap in the African Charter […] with stronger emphasis on restorative rather than on retributive justice”.

The draft Protocol was introduced during the first Conference on the death penalty in Africa organised by the African Commission and Benin in Cotonou in July 2014; it was supported by many representatives of AU Member States, by Members of Parliament, National Human Rights Institutions and civil society organisations.

The ACHPR officially adopted the draft Protocol at its 56th ordinary session in April 2015 and submitted it to the AU for adoption.


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