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Pritzker Legal Research Center


International Law: Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

The African Union is an international organization consisting of member states in the African continent. The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which protects human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent, entered into force on 21 October 1986. 

Article 18(4) of the African Charter specifically addresses persons with disabilities, stating, "The aged and the disabled shall also have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs."

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa was adopted on 29 January 2018, but has not yet entered into force. The protocol will come into effect after it is ratified by 15 member states of the African Union.

Commentary on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

Scholarly commentaries provide article-by-article analysis of a convention, including citations to relevant cases, travaux préparatoires (preparatory works), and other documents. 

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child explicitly includes a provision providing for the protection of children with disabilities.

Article 13 (Handicapped Children) states: " Every child who is mentally or physically disabled shall have the right to special measures of protection in keeping with his physical and moral needs and under conditions which ensure his dignity, promote his self-reliance and active participation in the community." 

Other OAU/AU Human Rights Treaties

In addition to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, other OAU/AU human rights treaties also protect the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities even if they do not explicitly mention or include a provision specifically pertaining to persons with disabilities. 

OAU/AU treaties can be found at African Union - OAU/AU Treaties, Conventions, Protocols & Charters. The human rights-related treaties are collected here

Jurisprudence

Use the following resources to find and retrieve materials from the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. Coverage dates and search functions vary, so you will need to use a combination of these resources to ensure that your research is comprehensive. 

GlobaLex's Forced Evictions and Disability Rights in Africa research guide (last updated October 2018) indicates that only one communication involving the rights of persons with disabilities has been brought before the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. Purohit and Others v The Gambia involved detention conditions in a Gambian mental health institution, where the African Commission found violations of Art. 18(4) (Protection of Family and Vulnerable Groups) and Art. 16 (Right to Health) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, among violations of other articles.

Resources for finding jurisprudence from the African Commission and Court include: 

Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities

The African Commission may create special mechanisms, such as special rapporteurs, committees, and working groups and determines their mandate. The African Commission established the Working Group on Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities in 2007. Resolutions, intersession activity reports, news, press releases, and other materials are all available on its website