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By Jonathan Haile

This semester, I worked on a project for Advocates International, an organization that pursues justice globally on behalf of the oppressed. My team and I drafted a memorandum for Advocates Africa regarding the state of religious freedom in Africa and how to obtain observer status with the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The ACHPR meets periodically throughout the year to discuss major issues within the continent. Certain NGOs can obtain observer status before the ACHPR to introduce and request that the Commission focus on certain issues during their sessions. Our team sought to answer the question of whether Advocates Africa and the Center for Global Justice could gain observer status before the ACHPR.

We discovered a relatively simple process. Organizations must share similar aims and goals as the Commission (the promotion of human rights), work in the field of human rights in Africa, and declare their financial resources. Once accepted, observers can attend the Commission’s opening and closing sessions, may be invited to be present at closed sessions, and can request that certain topics be placed on the Commission’s agenda.

ACHPR Commissioners in the ACHPR’s 73rd Session in Banjul, Gambia, October 2022. © 2022 Francisco Perez/ISHR. Originally posted on Human Rights Watch.

We also examined the process of submitting communications to the Commission alleging human rights violations so that Advocates Africa and the Center for Global Justice would be better equipped to support future individuals suffering religious persecution in Africa. We learned that anybody can submit a communication to the Commission, even an unrelated party, on behalf of another whose rights are being violated.

Lastly, we reviewed all the communications the Commission has received so far to better understand their position on religious freedom and expression. Not many communications related to religious freedom. However, we were encouraged that the ones that had been received and the Commission’s findings and recommendations demonstrated a commitment to advocating for religious freedom and the right to exercise that freedom without fear of persecution. Thus, Advocates Africa has a great opportunity to continue presenting instances of persecution to a Commission that is ready and willing to engage with the issue.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice law clerk. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.