Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa - 79OS




I.Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and Rapporteur for Portuguese-speaking Countries;
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 Executions and Enforced Disappearances;
IV.Member of the Working Group on Communications;  
V.Member of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa


SECTION I: Introduction
SECTION II: Activities conducted during the intersession period as:     
I.Member of the Commission
II.Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Policing in Africa and Rapporteur for the Portuguese-speaking countries 
III.Member of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa
IV.Member of the Working Group on Communications

SECTION III: Challenges
SECTION IV: Recommendations and Conclusions.

1.This Report is presented in accordance with Rule 23(3) and 72 of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (the Commission)(2020). The Report covers activities continued between the 77th and 79th  Ordinary Sessions, in accordance with the objectives provided in the annual plan implementation matrix, which derives from the Strategic Plan 2021-2025. 

2.The Report covers the activities I undertook as: a Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Commission); the Special Rapporteur on Prisons, Conditions of Detention and Police Action in Africa (the Special Rapporteur); a Member of the Working Group on the Death Penalty; and a Member of the Working Group on Communications. It also includes the activities conducted as Rapporteur for five (5) Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.

3.This Report is divided into four (4) parts: Introduction; Activities during the Intersession Period; Challenges faced in the exercise of the mandate as Special Rapporteur and Member of the ACHPR and Recommendations and Conclusions.


A/Statutory meetings

4.From 23 February to 8 March,  I participated in the 79th 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 and the consideration and decision on various Communications.

5.On 11 May, I attended the NGO Forum during which civil society organizations discussed the human rights situation on the continent. The model adopted for presenting the rights situation by region is interesting and allows us to understand what is essential in each region. There is constant reference in this Forum to issues related to prisons and the policing, with reports of unlawful detention, prison overcrowding and its consequences, which lead to a lack of respect for the dignity of prisoners.


6.On November 21-23, 2023, I attended the 5th meeting of the AU/RECS SSR Steering Committee in Addis Ababa. The Conference aimed to give all stakeholders the opportunity to review the achievements, challenges and lessons learned in supporting Member States involved in SSR and specifically to map out the way forward for the next decade (2024-2034).

7.The Conference was held at the same time as the 5th Meeting of the AU SSR Steering Committee, which considered the Draft Report on SSR.

8.Furthermore, the AU SSR Steering Committee considered the Draft Operational Guidance Note (OGN) on Security Sector Oversight and Accountability. The Conference was attended by participants from Member States, the AU Commission and its relevant bodies, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (ReMs) on Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, UN Agencies, Think Tanks supporting the SSR, and International Partners.

9.In the same capacity, on the 29 November 2023 I attended the Validation Meeting of the Study on the Impact of Law Enforcement on the Human Rights of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants in Africa, in coordination with the Refugee Mechanism. 

10.Also, within the framework of the Special Mechanism, I held technical meetings on January 19 and 23, February 13 and 22, and March 4, 2024, with several partners on the study of detention conditions in Africa and the study on alternatives to imprisonment. 

11.In this regard, the objective of the meetings was to establish a clear roadmap on the approach to be followed in both studies; defining the scope of analysis of the studies (specific areas) and specifying the responsibilities of the partners according to their competencies, identifying potential leaders and editors.

12.The initiative for these studies is supported by the Resolution on the implementation of a Study on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa, ACHPR/Res.557 (LXXV) 2023, adopted during its 75th Ordinary Session, held in hybrid format in Banjul, The Gambia, from May 3 to 23, 2023, to identify the root causes of the human rights violations registered and to make reform recommendations, and to suggest the application of Alternatives to effective imprisonment.

13.I attended the Commission's First Joint Forum of Special Mechanisms from April 25 to 27, 2024. This Forum served as an incubator for joint initiatives and transversal activities involving the mutual engagement of stakeholders on mainstream issues that highlight the interdependence of all human rights. In doing so, the ACHPR would deepen its intersectoral approach to human rights, reinforcing the indivisible and interconnected nature of all human rights, further in line with global best practice on human rights.

14.The Forum aimed to reflect on the state of human rights on the continent, consider the gains, identify the main challenges, and jointly define how the ACHPR can best contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights on the continent, particularly in the context of the Human Rights and Governance Agenda of the African Union.

15.It also made it possible to revisit and reflect on the progress made by the ACHPR in defending human rights, recognizing the achievements, and understanding the constraints faced by its Special Mechanisms and strategies for their greater effectiveness.

16.The ACHPR can critically assess the progress of ratification and implementation of human rights instruments, identifying gaps and catalyzing actions for greater protection and promotion of human rights, as well as fostering the exchange of experiences, promoting partnerships that bridge the gap between aspirations and realities on the ground.

17.During the Forum and on the 27th of April, I held a working meeting with the representatives of the Portuguese-speaking countries who attended, including Mr. Marcelino Gomes, Legal Counsellor at the Guinea-Bissau Embassy in Addis Ababa. 

18.A number of situations were addressed and we reviewed the difficulties experienced in these countries regarding the implementation of the human rights contained in the Charter and other Protocols. The absence of country representatives from the Commission's public sessions and the failure of states to submit reports were also discussed in some depth. 

19.This year marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Luanda Guidelines. In this regard, several activities will be conducted with the Mechanism's partners, including a panel at the Ordinary Session and training activities and mass dissemination of the soft law instrument in the countries that have already been identified and are sponsored.

III - Member of the Working Group on Communications

20.During the 78th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, held from February 23 to March 8, 2024, the Working Group met with the sole item on the agenda to examine the situation of complementarity between the Commission and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (The Court).

IV - Member of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa

21.On 19th December 2023, as part of the Committee's awareness-raising program on the Abidjan Rules, I participated in an awareness-raising and training webinar for Portuguese-speaking and French-speaking countries. The focus was on training all the law enforcement agencies that can intervene in the event of torture.

22.On 21st February 2024, I attended the meeting held to prepare the Committee's work program. "Education" was chosen as the theme for the work to be conducted, considering the guiding theme of the AU. 

V.Rapporteur Commissioner for PALOP (Portuguese-speaking African Countries)

23.In the process of monitoring the development of policies on the implementation of human rights in the countries for which it is responsible, a number of activities have been conducted, despite the failure of States to clarify any of the facts that have been reported.

24.A common highlight for these countries is the fact that they are committed to reporting to the UN in the Universal Periodic Report on a regular basis. 

I will now present a general overview of each of the countries: 

25.Cabo Verde: has been well referenced at the level of nations for its respect for human rights and other issues. The National Commission for Human Rights and Citizenship - CNDHC is in the process of renewing its charter to bring it into line with the Paris Principles; this body accumulates the functions of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture.

26.However, at the continental level, there are still challenges such as the presentation of reports on ratified regional instruments, since the last one presented on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights dates back to 1996 despite having an Interministerial Commission to prepare reports since 2017; ratification of some important regional instruments to guarantee the enjoyment of the rights safeguarded in these instruments; failure to master the guiding instruments for preparing reports for the ACHPR;

27.The country has been dealing with an ongoing strike by teachers, with no end in sight; and

28.The promotion mission authorized for January 29 to February 2 did not take place for logistical reasons, given the time between confirmation and the start of the mission. We called for a postponement and so far, there has been no response from the government.

29.Guinea-Bissau: the situation in the country has been monitored with some interest following the political developments that took place there in 2022 and 2023, e.g. the dissolution of the Parliament and, consequently, the government, although the Prime Minister remained in office; the accumulation of the Interior and Defense Ministries by the President of the Republic; 

30.The country was submitted to the Universal Periodic Review in 2020, from which it received several recommendations; however, it has not submitted any State Reports to the ACHPR since 1984; nor does it have a government body responsible for preparing State Reports on the implementation of the rights set out in the regional instruments. 

31.But there are positive facts to note in the period under review, the result of the government's efforts to improve the implementation of human rights in various areas.

32.In the health sector, the preparation and implementation of five-year health development plans; the national strategic plan for community health; and the guarantee of free medicines for tuberculosis patients. 

33.Education, the social protection of workers, justice and the protection of children and youth, the protection of the older people and human trafficking are other social sectors that need to be addressed, despite the efforts of the government. There are both positive and negative aspects. The right to land has also been given special attention, allowing traditional occupants to participate.

34.On a positive note, the government has reappointed the President of the National Human Rights Commission, rectifying an exoneration before the mandate ended. Efforts should be made to enlist the Commission as an affiliate member of the ACHPR, as it has done some noteworthy work. 

35.Equatorial Guinea: the country will be submitted to the 47th Session of the Universal Periodic Review in November this year.

36.On a positive note, the country held peaceful elections in 2022 and in September of the same year decreed the abolition of the death penalty in the new penal code.

37.However, Equatorial Guinea has never submitted a report on the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, 36 years after ratifying this instrument; it has not ratified the last three protocols to the African Charter, relating to the older persons, persons with disabilities and the right of citizens to social protection and social security.

38.The country's NHRI has not yet joined the ACHPR and it has never been possible to conduct a promotion mission to the country, despite repeated and insistent requests for authorization.

39.The civic space in the country has been restricted because NGOs are unable to become legal, and human rights defenders and/or citizens who wish to become legal or engage in civic activity have been imprisoned. The list of people imprisoned for this is long and the government is not responding to regional and international appeals.

40.Mozambique: after much advocacy, the country is attending this session to present its consolidated report for the period 2015 - 2021, which represents a major achievement.

41.The country held its local elections and experienced some upheavals, which we are following up on. Having made observations about the excessive use of force, it is hoped that the next phase, the general elections, will take place in a more peaceful and democratic manner.

42.Following the ratification of the Protocols to the African Charter on Persons with Disabilities and on Older People, a law on persons with disabilities was passed.

43.With regard to AU treaties, the country is working towards the ratification of the Convention on Anti-Corruption and the Kampala Convention.

44.Issues related to the non-implementation of human rights will be addressed during the presentation and advocacy of the country report.

45.It has not yet responded to the request for authorization for a promotion mission to the country.

46.S. Tomé and Príncipe: the country had its last promotion mission in 2019 and since then it has been difficult to obtain information on the implementation of both the recommendations and the other AU instruments.

47.The country does not have a National Human Rights Commission and, in order to advocate for the implementation of the rights established in regional and international instruments, there is the Office of the Minister of Justice, as well as an Interministerial Commission for the preparation of reports, which is experiencing difficulties in operating because the people who are part of it are temporary and this is reflected in their performance.

48.Furthermore, there has been intense consultation work at ministerial level in all the countries in order to raise awareness of the need to participate in the process and maintain close and permanent contact with the Commission. As a result, the presence of officials from various levels in the countries concerned has become more widespread and frequent.

Other countries 
49.We have been closely following reports of prison overcrowding on the continent and the reasons why so many people are imprisoned. Some are detained when they are exercising their right of association and assembly, and their free speech rights, thus restricting civic space in most countries.

50.Many activists and human rights defenders, as well as people who are part of the opposition to governments in power, are held in prisons in Africa, thus creating a differentiated group.

51.The right to move freely, in the case of internal migrants, has also led many people to migrant detention centers in various countries, creating situations of overcrowding.

52. The excessive use of force by law enforcement officials in several countries on the continent is another aspect that we have been monitoring with some concern. 


53.In this section, it is necessary to highlight the major challenges that the Commission faces in conducting its activities, in order to find appropriate solutions. The Commission has encountered various difficulties in the course of fulfilling its duties, such as insufficient funds, which has led it to resort to virtual meetings, which was an exceptional method in the past due to the pandemic but is now the norm. However, there are other activities, such as those conducted by the Mechanism on Prisons, which are too sensitive to be conducted in virtual meetings. 

54.Meetings with government bodies that involve issues related to law enforcement and public security are incompatible with this virtual mode. This worries the Mechanism and prevents it from effectively conducting its mandate.

55.The States Parties still do not respond positively to letters from the Mechanisms to conduct promotion missions, especially this one, which would provide a more reliable basis for exchanging information and best practices.

56.In the Commission's budget, the funds for promotion missions on human rights in Africa have been drastically reduced, which affects the members of the delegation and the effectiveness of the missions, according to the criteria in use at the Commission.

57.Insist and engage in innovative mobilization and advocacy so that the institutions of the Portuguese-speaking countries - governmental, academic, religious and NGO - are closer to the work of the Commission, thus creating a synergy that will only strengthen the bonds of cooperation between them, for the good of Africa.

58.Monitor more closely on the continent the new and growing group of prisoners, whose causes are more political than criminal.


     To States Parties
59.States parties to the Africa Charter and primary actors in the implementation and respect of the rights of prisoners, and those with power over the forces of public order and security, are requested to:
i.Participate actively in the Study on prison conditions in Africa that it has initiated, facilitating access to the necessary information, and indicating focal points with whom the Commission can work with;
ii.Allocate funds to the bodies responsible for prisons and other detention facilities in order to allow for the renovation and/or construction of new establishments in accordance with the Revised Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) allowing for the improvement of the standard of detention conditions;
iii.Issue authorization for promotion missions and prison visits requested by the Special Rapporteur to Member States;
iv.Start work towards revising the national legislation (laws, regulations and others) which allows people who have committed minor offenses to be sent to prison, replacing prison sentences with alternative sentences, which almost all countries have in their legislation and/or which are included in regional and international instruments on the matter, in order to reduce prison overcrowding;
v.Ensure that the initial and ongoing training of law enforcement officers includes subjects relating to respect for the human rights of all people, including prisoners;
vi.Take ownership of the numerous studies adopted by the Commission, including the recently launched Study on the (Excessive) Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officials;

vii.Facilitate the creation of Independent Bodies (state or civil society) with a mandate to conduct regular visits to Prisons and other detention facilities; receive and process complaints on deaths in detention, ill-treatment, or excessive detention for some extra-legal reason;

viii.Maintain ongoing cooperation with the ACHPR in order to improve the dialogue that enables understanding between the institutions.

ix.As part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Luanda Guidelines, include in the training programs of the law enforcement, security and public order forces, the discussion on the state of implementation of the instrument.

National Human Rights Institutions and other Specialized Institutions 
60.NHRIs and other Specialized Institutions, partners of the Commission, are urged to cooperate more actively in the following aspects:
i.Assist the Commission, and especially the Mechanism, in disseminating relevant information and instruments regarding respect for the rights of prisoners in Africa;
ii.Organize an event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Luanda Guidelines and promote their application within the law enforcement agencies;
iii. Share and report on torture, which in this case translates into prison and other detention facility overcrowding in Africa, and help the Commission disseminate the good practices on prison management set out in the Arusha Declaration, as well as the Kadoma Declaration;
iv.Encourage the dissemination of the instruments approved by the Commission in recent years, with particular reference to the Study on the (Excessive) Use of Force by Law Enforcement Personnel;
v.Participate actively in ongoing activities, specifically 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 in slowing down prison overcrowding.

Non-Governmental Organizations 
61.NGOs, essential partners of the Commission in monitoring the implementation of human rights on the continent, are urged:
i.As Observer Members of the ACHPR, to fulfill their mission by cooperating with activities that assist in the dissemination of relevant instruments regarding the rights of detainees and in the monitoring of prisons and other detention facilities;
ii.Cooperate with the Commission and States Parties by reporting human rights violations and abuses and providing credible data, so that proper investigations can be conducted and those responsible held accountable;
iii.Assist with training and other necessary assistance so that joint work can result in a greater contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights;
iv.Assist and motivate other organizations that are not already working with the ACHPR to consider the possibility of cooperation;
v.Promote an activity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Luanda Guidelines and foster their implementation. 

Donors and Partners

62.Donors and partners are important actors within the scope of the Commission's work and we are counting on them to overcome the financial deficits mentioned above. Prayers:
i.Continue to provide technical and financial assistance so that the Mechanism can undertake relevant activities, since it has 2 areas that require special attention, even though they complement each other: Prisons and the Law Enforcement Sector;
ii.Facilitate the printing and dissemination, in the official languages of the Commission, of the relevant instruments of the Mechanism, in particular the Study on the (Excessive) Use of Force by Law Enforcement Personnel and others;
iii.Renew their efforts to ensure that the Police and Human Rights Newsletter continues to be published and that it reaches its intended audience.
iv.Continue to assist the Mechanism in terms of training, both for the Law Enforcement and Public Security Forces, as well as for other important players identified in the course of the studies conducted and the work in progress.


Finally, I must thank my predecessors for their efforts in getting the Luanda Guidelines, which this year mark its 10th anniversary, adopted. Now it is our responsibility to work to ensure that the Guidelines are effectively known and celebrated and, this year in particular, to survey their level of implementation across the continent.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank some States Parties for their support in continuing this thorny mission, given that although human rights are already a dilemma, the approach to human rights for prisoners, who are invisible because they are behind walls, is even more delicate. However, it takes courage to unveil the veil and discuss what is actually happening in prisons and detention facilities.
My gratitude also goes to our partners in this journey, who I don't need to list because our work is extensive and goes back a long way; I hope we remain steadfast in our goal: to make prisons a place where human rights can be promoted and respected, both for prisoners and for the correctional officers. 
I would like to extend my appreciation to those who have joined the project entitled Study on the State of Prisons in Africa, and hope that our efforts will not be in vain.
We should all work closely, States Parties, INDH and other institutions including academic, religious, NGO and other partners, to hold physical trainings to disseminate the Commission's publications regarding respect for human rights, especially those related to this Mechanism.

Luanda, on May 12, 2024

Maria Teresa Manuela,