Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa - 77OS


I.Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and Country Rapporteur for Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe;
II.Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa;  
III.Member of the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa;
IV.    Member of the Working Group on Communications; and
IV.Member of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa.

77th Ordinary Session
20 October –  9 November 2023
In-person session

SECTION I: Introduction
SECTION II: Activities undertaken during the intersession period as:
I.Member of the Commission
II.Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa
III.Country Rapporteur for Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe
IV.Member of the Working Group on Communications
V.Member of the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa;

SECTION III: Challenges
SECTION IV: Recommendations and Conclusions

1.This report is submitted pursuant to Rules 23 (3) and 72 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Commission). It covers the activities carried out between the 76th and 77th Ordinary Sessions, as set out in the Annual Plan Goal Matrix, which stems from the Strategic Plan 2021-2025.

2. The Report covers activities undertaken in my capacity as a member of the  Commission, as Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa, member of the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa, and member of the Working Group on Communications, and as Country Rapporteur for Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe.

3.The report is divided into four (4) parts: Introduction; Activities undertaken during the intersession period; Challenges faced during my mandate as Special Rapporteur and member of the Commission; and Recommendations and conclusions.


A.Statutory meetings

4.On 19 June and 6 July, I attended meetings with the PRC to discuss issues related to institutional reform at the AU, in particular the ACHPR, the Children's Committee and the African Court.

5.On 6 and 7 July, I participated in a webinar organised by Commissioner Janet Sallah-Njie, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women. The event focused on the dissemination of General Comments 6 and 14, the Joint General Comment on FGM, guidelines and other instruments. The aim was to raise awareness of soft laws on the rights of women and girls in Africa, as well as their domestication and implementation. The webinar highlighted the contribution of these soft laws to the respect of women's rights in Africa and the responsibility of civil society in this regard. A commitment was also made to disseminate these instruments in Portuguese-speaking countries by mobilising NGOs working on women's rights. For more details, see the report of the relevant mechanism.

6.From 13 to 16 July, I attended the 43rd Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council and the 5th Mid-Year Coordination Meeting between the AU and the RECs/RMs in Nairobi, Kenya.

7.From 19 July to 02 August, I participated in the 76th Ordinary Session of the Commission. The session considered a number of issues related to the activities of the Commission, in particular the human rights situation on the continent, which led to the adoption of several resolutions, decisions on various communications and a review of humanitarian law.

On 7 August, I participated in the second expert meeting on the study on the impact of human rights law enforcement on asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants in Africa. The meeting was a follow-up to the pilot study conducted in the Niger region. Three Commissioners and experts from OHCHR, ICRC, IDDH, and APCOF, among others, attended the meeting, which discussed ways to improve the study, taking into account developments since the previous draft. The latest draft will be made available in the Commission's working languages for public consultation and input, and will be submitted to the Commission for consideration in due course. For further details, see the report of the Special Rapporteur on refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants in Africa.


8.In Geneva on 26 May, I participated in a side event in the margins of the annual session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The theme of the event was prison overcrowding. My presentation focused on prison overcrowding in Africa and the Commission's work to help reshape prison policies in Africa in line with existing instruments, including the Ouagadougu Declaration. These instruments call for more alternatives to imprisonment.

9.On 11 July, I participated in the final meeting with experts involved in the drafting of the study on the use of force, following the closure of the public consultation period. Commissioner Hatem Essaiem attended the meeting. Participants in the meeting discussed aspects of the study and issues that had been raised and subsequently added to the study. Once harmonised, the study was presented to the Commission at its July meeting.

10.The Commission commemorated Nelson Mandela Day on 18 July. This date is also known as Africa Prisons Day. Although the day has been commemorated worldwide since 2010, this was the first time that the Commission participated in such an event. The initiative aims to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, a defender of human and peoples' rights, in particular his fight against apartheid and racism. The theme of this year's event is "Climate, Food and Solidarity". This highlights the urgency of climate change, which disproportionately affects the poorest people in Africa, many of whom live below the poverty line. The event also aimed to promote food security policies and solidarity with vulnerable communities.

11.The Commission urged States party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights to adopt measures to address these challenges and encouraged national human rights institutions and international organisations to engage in the quest for social and climate justice. It also urged human rights defenders to participate actively in the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) and to press governments for the sustainable use of the continent's vast arable land to ensure food self-sufficiency.

12.On 20 September, I chaired the Regional Debate on Alternatives to Imprisonment. This activity was a follow-up to the discussions on prison overcrowding held at the Conference on the Human Rights Situation in Prisons in Africa in April 20-23. It was attended by some 30 delegates representing State institutions, NHRIs, independent researchers and NGOs directly involved in these issues. The discussions included two panels, the first on the excessive use of prison sentences leading to overcrowding in prisons, and the second on the use of alternatives to imprisonment, their objectives and existing experiences. The debates were fruitful and will feed into the work of the Commission and its partners in raising awareness among relevant stakeholders about changes in the approach to imprisonment.

13.The debate focused on the study of existing alternatives to imprisonment, with an emphasis on restorative justice programmes. By shifting the focus from punishment to prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration, alternatives to imprisonment aim to reduce recidivism, promote community safety and address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour.

14.Specifically, the discussion aimed to achieve the following objectives: share information and strategies to inform an African Commission study on alternatives to imprisonment in the criminal justice system; raise awareness on access to prisons; share information on the impact of current approaches to detention, pre-trial detention and sentencing and understand the limitations and negative impacts from a human rights perspective; discuss emerging strategies to reduce the number of suspects entering the criminal justice system, including crime prevention; address the over-criminalisation of marginalised groups; and reduce arbitrary detention and pre-trial detention.

15.On 28 September, I chaired a meeting during which the Study on the Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers was presented. The study is scheduled to be launched at the current session. The meeting was attended by 32 (is this the number???) participants, including representatives of State institutions, NHRI and NGOs. It served to impress on all interested parties the outcome of the work initiated three (3) years ago and to which everyone contributed selflessly. Once again, the experts presented the main milestones of their work and its relevance, especially in the post-pandemic phase.

16.Research was carried out in collaboration with the Working Group on the Death Penalty, Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Africa, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa. The resolution invited governmental and non-governmental organisations to contribute to the study.

17.The study focused primarily on relevant legal frameworks and methods to ensure that national legal systems comply with international standards on the circumstances in which force may be used, and on accountability mechanisms to ensure compliance with these standards.

18.The completion and publication of this study will improve the legal frameworks of African states regarding the use of force in everyday interactions with citizens. Ultimately, this will make it easier for law enforcement officials to comply with international human rights standards.

19.I have taken the necessary steps to advance the study on the situation of prisons in Africa, pursuant to resolution ACHPR/Res.557 (LXXV) 2023, by holding meetings with partners and other parties interested in understanding the situation and participating in the search for solutions.



20.From 13 to 15 June, I participated in a training course on shadow reporting for NGOs belonging to the Lusophone Human Rights Network. The course was organised by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and was in line with the guidelines on shadow reporting of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted on (check date). The aim of the course was to strengthen cooperation with the Commission and to give greater visibility to its work. The network includes NGOs from Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. A total of 20 participants representing the six (6) countries attended the training. They are expected to provide training in their respective countries and share the knowledge and skills acquired. The course began with an exchange of information on the implementation of the African Charter and other regional instruments in each country, followed by more specific training on: a) the African human rights system; b) the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; c) the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women; and d) the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The ultimate aim is to ensure the participation of civil society in the work of the Commission and its contribution when States submit reports under Article 62 of the Charter, Article 26 of the Maputo Protocol and Article 43 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

21.I have maintained contacts with the focal points in the countries under my responsibility to improve interaction with the Commission and to raise awareness of the need to submit reports on the implementation of the Charter and other relevant instruments and to participate more actively in its planned activities.

22.A note verbale was sent to the Government of the Republic of Cape Verde renewing the Commission's request for authorisation to undertake a promotion mission to the country.


23.In recent months I have been following the human rights situation in Mozambique. There have been situations that justify the Commission's concern, in particular the brutality of the police, the prisons and the army, where attacks on the life and physical integrity of citizens have been recorded.

The right to life and to moral and physical integrity

24.There have been cases of serious human rights violations by the Defence and Security Forces (FDS), particularly the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR), in Cabo Delgado, where three civilians were allegedly executed at close range. In Mocímboa da Praia, residents are concerned about the lack of security and have on several occasions expressed sympathy for the Rwandan troops.

25.One case of police brutality was observed, where a young man was allegedly beaten to death in the cells of the 7th police station in order to obtain evidence for a criminal case.

26.There was also a case of police officers being filmed torturing a defenceless citizen whose hands were tied to the back of a police car. The video, which circulated on social media, clearly shows the officers attempting to murder him in broad daylight on a busy street.

27.The Secretariat was also informed of the death of a young man in PRM cells in the city of Maputo, who was tortured after being illegally detained. No law enforcement officials have been held accountable for these acts.

28.There was also the case of a 21-year-old man who was brutally assaulted by the municipal police in Angoche. The incident occurred when three municipal police officers questioned the young man, who worked as a motorcycle taxi driver.

29.On 2 July, the PRM district commander in Mogovolas, Nampula Province, shot and killed four minors while trying to disperse a group of citizens protesting for the return of motorcycles confiscated by the police. The motorcycles had been confiscated in order to prevent a race planned to celebrate the anniversary of the district headquarters of Nametil.

30.The Secretariat received information on violations of freedom of expression and illegal detention.

31.The Secretariat received reports that seven people had been arrested in Marracuene for allegedly assaulting police officers during a demonstration against the closure of an electricity network. However, they were released after three nights of illegal detention..

32.With regard to Guinea-Bissau, the following aspects can be highlighted:

Rights of the elderly

33.Older people face significant challenges, and the lack of specific protective measures and national legislation addressing the situation of older people contributes to the persistence of violations of their rights. Violence against older people is often linked to accusations of witchcraft. In the communities where they live, older people are often subjected to ill-treatment, including physical assault and other forms of abuse. Impunity is a problem and there have been cases of fatal beatings, such as that of an elderly woman in the village of Suzana in northern Guinea-Bissau. She was accused of witchcraft and brutally beaten to death.

34.A The lack of adequate care facilities and the absence of official statistics make it difficult to fully assess the extent of the problem. Human rights organisations, such as the Guinean Human Rights League, have highlighted the urgent need for greater efforts and the creation of organisations to protect and promote the rights of older people.

Trafficking in human beings
35.According to the established minimum standards for the assessment of the fight against trafficking in persons, Guinea-Bissau remains at level 3. The government has not made significant efforts to eradicate trafficking in persons, even taking into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although some measures have been taken, such as referring child victims of trafficking to civil society organisations and training border officials to prevent trafficking, the government has not taken legal action against traffickers and has never convicted a trafficker under its anti-trafficking laws. The identification of victims and the services provided to them are also inadequate, and the inter-ministerial committee has not taken effective action to curb trafficking.

Cape Verde
36.Over the years, Cape Verde has demonstrated a strong commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights and has generally been among the best performers..

Promotion of human rights

37.The Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, has reaffirmed the country's commitment to respect and implement international human rights conventions. Cape Verde intends to apply to the UN Commission on Human Rights for a term of office between 2025 and 2027 in order to improve its human rights record. The Government of Cape Verde intends to protect the rights of the child, eliminate discrimination, promote gender equality, guarantee the rights of migrant workers and combat torture and racial discrimination.

38.On 23 August 2023, the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship (CNDHC) launched the competition for the "National Human Rights Award 2023" to recognise individuals, studies or institutions that have contributed to the promotion, reflection and defence of human rights and citizenship in Cape Verde. The award categories include Social Activist, Scientific Article, NGO, Media Report and Human Rights Friendly School.

39.In addition, the National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship (CNDHC) and the Zé Moniz Association have signed a one-year cooperation protocol, renewable annually. The agreement aims to promote and defend human rights in Cape Verde. The partnership is intended to help reduce social exclusion, promote human rights and combat violations of these rights. The Zé Moniz Association undertakes to support measures to combat extreme poverty and to strengthen synergies between the two organisations. The agreement provides guidelines for mutual cooperation, including capacity building at the community level and the promotion of communication strategies on human rights. Both organisations undertake to support the implementation of public policies promoting human rights and citizenship in Cape Verde.

40.In cooperation with the Cape Verdean Network of Human Rights Defenders, a technical team held a meeting with representatives of institutions defending human rights in Cape Verde. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the situation of human rights defenders in the country, to identify the risks they face and to analyse their protection needs. The meeting is part of a research project that will also be carried out on the isles of Santiago, São Vicente and Sal, with the aim of understanding how human rights defenders carry out their activities, identifying obstacles to the promotion of rights and assessing ways to improve the situation.

41.However, despite the country's best efforts to uphold and respect human rights, numerous violations persist and deserve the attention of the Rapporteur.

Rights of migrants
42.Human rights organisations in Cape Verde have stepped up their calls on the country's government to strengthen coordination mechanisms and create the right conditions to receive migrants fleeing violence and poverty. The organisations argue that it is essential to improve the country's preparedness to provide assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations.

São Tomé and Príncipe
43.Significant progress has been made in São Tomé and Príncipe as part of the Government's efforts to place human rights high on the national agenda.

Promotion of human rights
44.In order to strengthen the protection and full implementation of human rights in the country, the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe has announced its intention to create an independent national institution for the promotion of human rights. The establishment of this institution is intended to improve the quality of life of citizens, strengthen human rights and related mechanisms and improve the capacity of public institutions.

Women's rights
45.In partnership with the United Nations, the authorities of São Tomé and Príncipe have taken the initiative to address the various dimensions of gender-based violence in the country by 2027. This strategic plan involves the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and other UN agencies, and includes activities in schools and youth clubs, where hundreds of students participate in discussions on issues such as sexuality, gender equality and human rights. Gender-based violence is a significant problem in São Tomé and Príncipe, affecting 13 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49, and encompassing different types of violence, such as emotional, physical and sexual.

46.Cooperation with the United Nations aims to influence households by extending its activities to other areas and sectors, including institutions providing public services. In addition, UN support focuses on four main areas: inter-agency coordination, victim support, strengthening institutional capacity and producing reliable statistical data. The empowerment of girls is a top priority, with more than 16,100 students benefiting from initiatives including the production of manuals, teacher training and improvements to school facilities. This partnership between the United Nations and São Tomé and Príncipe is part of the new framework for cooperation between the Government and the United Nations for 2023-2027.

47.It is important to note, however, that not all rights have received equal attention.

Freedom of expression
48.The Government of São Tomé and Príncipe imposed a 15-day ban on all demonstrations, citing the need to maintain peace and order during the preparations for the XIV CPLP Summit, scheduled for 27 August. The authorities argue that security forces are busy with 'safe city' operations for the summit and would not be able to guarantee security in the event of protests ahead of the event. The measure was announced after relatives of Lucas Lima, the sole survivor of a group of five men allegedly tortured by the military after an attempted coup in November 2022, planned a demonstration to demand justice in the case. Faced with a government ban, the relatives decided to cancel the demonstration. The opposition, led by the MLSTP-PSD, also condemned the ban, arguing that the CPLP summit should not be used to justify human rights violations and the suppression of democratic principles. One political analyst noted that the decision damaged the government's image and was legally questionable, undermining respect for the norms and best practices associated with democratic governments.

Equatorial Guinea

Protection and promotion of human rights

49.Simeon Oyono Esono Angue, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, reaffirmed his country's commitment to the defence of human rights. He was speaking at the 77th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. He mentioned strategies implemented to strengthen the rights of children, persons with disabilities and access to food, vaccines and housing. He also underlined his concern about maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and praised the Security Council resolution classifying piracy as a crime. He also called for the organisation of a summit on the Gulf of Guinea to combat terrorism and develop the region. Esono Angue called for a reform of the UN system, including the Security Council, and stressed the need for more African representation in that body. He noted, however, that Africa has been calling for such reforms for more than 15 years. Equatorial Guinea, led by Teodoro Obiang for 43 years, has been accused of human rights abuses, although it abolished the death penalty in September 2022 following international pressure.


50.During the reporting period, and in my capacity as Vice-Chairperson of this Group, I participated in the meeting held on 4 July, where various issues were analysed, including 4 (four) communications received during the previous period; reports and other documents. Recommendations were made and will be presented to the plenary.
51.The Working Group was not able to meet due to time constraints caused by the holiday season and the participation of members in other activities, but I attended a meeting in September where four (4) other communications were discussed, as indicated in the report of the Mechanism.


52.On 15 June, I attended a meeting on the induction of newly appointed members, the preparation of the work plan in accordance with the rules of the ACHPR and the division of tasks so that activities are synchronised and everyone is aware of the work to be done. General information was provided on the creation, functioning, mandate, past work and ongoing projects of the Group, with the participation of Sylvie Kaytesi, the Group's rapporteur in other mandates. For more details, see the report of the Mechanism.  


53.In this section, it is necessary to highlight the main challenges faced by the Commission in carrying out its activities, with a view to finding appropriate solutions. In carrying out its tasks, the Commission is confronted with various difficulties, such as a lack of resources, which has led it to resort to virtual meetings, once an exceptional method due to the pandemic, but now a matter of course. However, there are other activities, such as those of the Prisons Mechanism, which are too sensitive to be carried out in this format.

54.Meetings with government bodies on law enforcement and public security issues are incompatible with this virtual format. This is a matter of concern for the Mechanism and does not allow it to fulfil its mandate effectively.

55.States are still not responding positively to letters from mechanisms requesting visits, in particular from this Mechanism. Such visits would form the basis for greater trust, which would allow for the exchange of information and best practices.

56.The Commission's budget for visits to promote human rights in Africa has been drastically reduced, affecting both the composition of the delegations and the effectiveness of the visits according to the criteria in force at the Commission.

     State Parties
57.States party to the African Charter and key actors in the implementation and respect of prisoners' rights, with responsibility for public order and security forces, are invited to:

i.Actively participate in the ongoing study on prison conditions in Africa, facilitate access to the necessary information and identify focal points with whom the Commission can work;
ii.Provide funding to the authorities responsible for prisons and other places of detention to enable the renovation and/or construction of new facilities in accordance with the revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules), thereby improving the standard of detention;
iii.Authorise Member States to carry out promotion missions and prison visits requested by the Special Rapporteur;
iv.Begin work on revising internal regulations (laws, regulations and other instruments) that allow for the imprisonment of persons who have committed minor offences, replacing imprisonment with alternative sentences, which almost all countries have in their legislation and/or are included in regional and international instruments on the subject, in order to reduce prison overcrowding;
v.Ensure that the initial and in-service training of law enforcement officials includes subjects related to respect for the human rights of all persons, including prisoners;
vi.Take up the various studies adopted by the Commission, including the recently launched study on the (excessive) use of force by law enforcement officials; and
vii.Facilitate the establishment of independent bodies (State or civil society) with a mandate to conduct regular visits to prisons and other places of detention; receive and process complaints of deaths in custody, ill-treatment or excessive detention for any extrajudicial reason.
National Human Rights Institutions and other Specialised Institutions
58.NHRIs and other specialised institutions working in partnership with the Commission are invited to cooperate more actively, inter alia, by:

i.Assisting the Commission, and in particular the Mechanism, in disseminating relevant information and tools on respect for the rights of prisoners in Africa;
ii.Sharing information on torture and exposing cases of torture in the form of overcrowding in prisons and other places of detention in Africa, and assisting the Commission in disseminating the good practices on prison management contained in the Arusha Declaration and the 20-year-old Kadoma Declaration on the use of alternatives to imprisonment;
iii.Promoting the dissemination of the instruments adopted by the Commission in recent years, in particular the study on the (excessive) use of force by law enforcement officials; and
iv.Active participate in ongoing activities, in particular the study on the state of prisons in Africa and the dissemination of the Arusha Declaration on Good Prison Management and the Kadoma Declaration on the Use of Alternatives to Imprisonment, which are important for reducing the current prison overcrowding.
Non-Governmental Organisations
59.NGOs, which are essential partners of the Commission in monitoring the state of implementation of human rights on the continent, are urged to:

i.As organisations with observer status at the ACHPR, fulfil their mandate by participating in activities that contribute to the dissemination of relevant instruments on the rights of prisoners and to the monitoring of prisons and other places of detention;
ii.Cooperate with the Commission and State parties by reporting human rights violations and abuses and providing credible data so that investigations can be conducted and those responsible ultimately held accountable;
iii.Assisting with training and other necessary support so that joint work can lead to a greater contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights; and
iv.To assist and encourage other organisations not yet cooperating with the ACHPR to consider the possibility of doing so.

Donors and partners

60.Donors and partners are important actors in the work of the Commission and we count on them to fill the financial gaps mentioned above. We urge them to:

i.Facilitate the printing and dissemination of the relevant instruments of the Mechanism, in particular the study on the (excessive) use of force by law enforcement officials and others, in the working languages of the Commission;
ii.Renew its efforts to ensure that the newsletter Policing and Human Rights in Africa continues to be produced and reaches its intended recipients; and
iii.Continue to support the Mechanism in the area of training, both for public order and security forces and for other key actors identified in the studies conducted and in the ongoing work.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for being re-elected by the State parties and for the confidence that my colleagues have placed in me to continue to lead the Mechanism.
My thanks, of course, also go to the partners in this journey, because our work is extensive and goes back a long way, and I hope that we will remain steadfast in our goal: to make prisons a place where human rights can be promoted and respected, both for prisoners and for the staff who work there. 
I would like to thank those who have participated in the project to study the state of prisons in Africa, and hope that our efforts will not be in vain.
Together with State parties, NHRIs and other institutions, NGOs and other partners, we will work to organise in-person training sessions to disseminate the Commission's publications on respect for human rights, in particular those related to this mechanism.

Luanda, 2 October 2023.

Maria Teresa Manuela