ACHPR65 Alert | The NGO Forum and the 65th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

The 65th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights will be held in Banjul, The Gambia from 21 October to 10 November 2019. The African Commission session will be preceded by the NGO Forum and 39th African Human Rights Book Fair, which will take place from 17 to 19 October 2019.​

What will happen during the NGO Forum and 65th ordinary session of the African Commission?

The NGO Forum

  • Advocacy Training

Like every year, ahead of this session of the NGO Forum, a training on advocacy particularly focused on regional and international mechanisms will be organised. This year’s training is organised by CIVICUS and will be held from 15 to 21 October 2019. It will consist of three different elements: 

  • Advocacy training will be conducted by our partner in The Gambia, from 15 to 17 October 
  • Participants will then attend the NGO Forum, which is held ahead of the ordinary sessions of the African Commission
  • The 65th session of the African Commission will open on 21 October and participants will have the opportunity to put the training into practice
  • The Forum

The Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the Ordinary Sessions of the African Commission, also known as the ‘NGO Forum’ is an advocacy platform coordinated by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) to promote advocacy, lobbying and networking among and between human rights NGOs, for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa. The NGO Forum shares updates on the human rights situation in Africa by the African and international NGOs community with a view of identifying responses as well as adopting strategies towards the promotion and protection of human rights on the continent.

In order to further discussions started during the last NGO Forum held in April in Sharm El Sheikh, which were relevant to this year’s African Union’s theme ‘The Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: towards durable solutions for forced displacement in Africa’, for this session the Forum’s theme will be ‘From rhetoric to action’. 

Several panels are scheduled to be held in relation to this theme touching several issues such as: 

  • Resilience strategies and protection of displaced human rights defenders 
  • The situation of statelessness in Africa
  • The status of intersex and transgender refugees in Africa
  • The rights of internally displaced people during armed conflicts
  • The use of surveillance technologies to stifle protest, expression and privacy in Africa

The 65th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

  • Panel discussions
  • The importance of civic space participation in the 2030 and 2063 agendas, 23 October, 9.30 to 11am.
  • Panel on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders with a focus on Protection Laws, 23 October, 3 to 4.30pm
  • State periodic Reports (Item 9)

During every session, special mechanisms from the African Commission present their activity report. These reports catalogue the activities and initiatives undertaken by each mechanism inter-sessionally:

  • Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa 
  • Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women
  • Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information         
  • Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa 
  • Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons 
  • Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa          
  • Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights            
  • Working Group on Death Penalty, Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa        
  • Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities 
  • Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa       
  • Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations
  • Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV

For the full programme, click here.

What will ISHR do during this session?

During this session, ISHR will make several statements under Items 3 and 5:

  • The situation of human rights in Africa
  • Activity reports
    • Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa
    • Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa
    • Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations

ISHR will also organise side events.

Did you know that the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has a focal point on reprisals?

Indeed, in 2014, during the 55th ordinary session, the African Commission adopted resolution 273 which expanded the mandate of the Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to include a focus on cases of reprisals against civil society and other stakeholders engaging with the African Commission. This resolution was motivated by the Commission’s ‘deep concern’ at the frequency and severity of reprisals against civil society actors, particularly human rights defenders, together with the near ‘total impunity’ enjoyed by perpetrators of reprisals. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur on defenders was mandated to be the ‘Focal Point’ regarding reprisals.​

Ending intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with regional mechanisms in Africa

Date: 22 October 2019, 17.30-19.00

Place: Kairaba Hotel, Banjul, The Gambia

This side event aims at providing more visibility and clarity on the Special Rapporteur’s mandate on reprisals, to share some lessons learned from efforts to address reprisals and intimidation at the international level, and to hone in on what more can be done at the regional level. In particular, the event will be an opportunity for the Special Rapporteur to share key information on how to engage with the reprisal’s aspect of his mandate through the presentation of the mandate’s working documents in this regard. 


  • Remy Ngoy Lumbu, African Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa
  • Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders
  • Clément Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly
  • Madeleine Sinclair, ISHR New York Co-Director and Legal Counsel
  • A woman defender from Sudan 

How can you participate to the ordinary session of the African Commission?

To register for the session of the Commission, click here.

What advocacy opportunities does the Commission offer?

  • The situation of human rights in Africa
    • Under Item 3, civil society organisations with observer status have the possibility to make a statement highlighting specific issues relating to the human rights enshrined in the African Charter. It can be used to call the attention of the Commission on a specific issue or even update the Commission on an issue previously brought to its attention. 
  • Country review
    • Under article 62 of the African Charter, States are obliged to submit a report every two years on the legislative or other measures taken with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed by the present Charter. During this process, civil society organisations also have the possibility to submit their own reports ahead of the session during which countries will be reviewed in order to inform the Commission’s recommendations and provide advice to a specific State.
  • Country and Special Rapporteurs mandates
    • Every Commissioner has under its mandate 5 countries in Africa. During the session, civil society organisations have the opportunity to meet with the Commissioner which has their country under its mandate. It is important to seize this moment to update the mandate on the issues specific to their country and more specifically call its attention to any issue civil society organisations want the mandate holder to raise with the State directly or during the session.  
    • All year long, it is recommended that civil society shares information with Special Rapporteurs. During sessions, civil society organisations can make statements during the presentation of each Commissioner, including Special Rapporteurs, and activity reports highlighting important issues of interest.  

ISHR will monitor and report on key developments at the 65th ordinary session of the African Commission. Follow us on Twitter at @ISHRglobal, @ISHR_fr and at #ACHPR65. Our staff can also be followed @Adelaide_ISHR, @StephanieWamba, @Madeleine_ISHR


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