Robben Island Guidelines

The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights establishes a regional human rights body, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, with the mandate to promote the observance of the Charter, ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms set out in the Charter, interpret the Charter and advise on its implementation. Article 5 of the African Charter provides that 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 and particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.

At the 28th Ordinary Session of the African Commission, the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), an international NGO enjoying Observer Status to the African Commission and committed to working internationally to tackle the global problem of torture and ill-treatment, proposed to the African Commission to hold a joint workshop in order to formulate concrete measures which would be taken for effective implementation of the provisions of Article 5 of the African Charter.

The workshop was held, from 12 to 14 February 2002, on Robben Island, a symbolic place for Africa, where Nelson Mandela and other activists against the South African Apartheid regime were detained for many years. This meeting drew together African and international experts from a variety of backgrounds. The result of this co-operative efforts was the successful drafting of comprehensive guidelines and measures for the prohibition and prevention of torture and ill-treatment in Africa, called “Robben Island Guidelines”.

The Robben Island Guidelines were adopted by the African Commission during its 32nd ordinary session. These Guidelines are designed to assist States to meet their national, regional and international obligations for the effective enforcement and implementation of the universally recognised prohibition and prevention of torture. The adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines is an important step forward in the promotion of human rights and in the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in Africa, but it is not an end in itself. The
Guidelines need to be promoted and implemented. They have also to be understood as a collective endeavour of the African community to deal with the phenomena of torture and to look forward to every person enjoying the right to be free from torture and other forms of illtreatment.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights would like to draw the attention of all African national and regional actors, as well as international ones, to the next crucial step of implementing the Guidelines. The implementation of the Guidelines has to be encouraged at national level. This needs co-operation, dialogue and the endeavour of several actors such as appropriate States Authorities, Parliamentarians, National Human Rights Institutions and the whole Civil Society.

Andrew R. Chigovera,
Commissioner of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

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RESOLUTION ON GUIDELINES AND MEASURES FOR THE PROHIBITION AND PREVENTION OF TORTURE, CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT IN AFRICA

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meeting at its 32nd ordinary session, held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 17th to 23rd October 2002;
Recalling the provisions of:
- Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that prohibits all forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment;
- Article 45 (1) of the African Charter which mandates the African Commission to, inter alia, 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 legislation;
- Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union wherein States Parties undertake to promote and respect the sanctity of human life, rule of law, good governance and democratic principles;
Recalling further its Resolution on the Right to Recourse Procedure and Fair Trial adopted during its 11th ordinary session, held in Tunis, Tunisia, from 2nd to 9th March 1992;
Noting the commitment of African States to ensure better promotion and respect of human rights on the continent as reaffirmed in the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the 1st Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Africa;
Recognising the need to take concrete measures to further the implementation of existing provisions on the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
Mindful of the need to assist African States to meet their international obligations in this regard;
Recalling the recommendations of the Workshop on the Prohibition and the Prevention of Torture and Ill-treatment, organised jointly by the African Commission and the Association for the Prevention of Torture, on Robben Island, South Africa, from 12th to 14th February 2002;
1 Adopts the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (The Robben Island Guidelines).
2 Establishes a Follow-up Committee comprising of the African Commission, the Association for the Prevention of Torture and any prominent African Experts as the Commission may determine.
3 Assigns the following mandate to the Follow-up Committee:
-To organise, with the support of interested partners, seminars to disseminate the Robben Island Guidelines to national and regional stakeholders;
-To develop and propose to the African Commission strategies to promote and implement the Robben Island Guidelines at the national and regional levels;
-To promote and facilitate the implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines within Member States;
-To make a progress report to the African Commission at each ordinary session;
4 Urges Special Rapporteurs and Members of the African Commission to widely disseminate the Robben Island Guidelines as part of their promotional mandate;
5 Encourages States parties to the African Charter, in their periodic reports to the African Commission, to bear in mind the Robben Island Guidelines;
6 Invites NGOs and other relevant actors to widely disseminate and utilise the Robben Island Guidelines in the course of their work.

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