Photo Credit: Rod Waddington

A Decade of Activism on SOGIE and SRHR at the ACHPR

A lot of work was done prior to 2008, mostly by women’s rights organisations to raise sexual orientation and gender identity and in particular the concerns of lesbians and bisexual women.

CAL lodges its application for observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

October 2010
CAL observer status rejected on the grounds that “the activities of the said Organisation do not promote and protect any of the rights enshrined in the African Charter” [on Human and Peoples’ Rights].

October 2010 – April 2015
A major Africa-wide campaign calling for the African Commission to reconsider its decision is launched

April 2014
CAL and AMSHeR launch their report ‘Violence Based on Perceived or Real Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Africa’ at the ACHPR, in the report making a series of recommendations to the ACHPR and AU member states.

April 2014
The ACHPR adopts Resolution 275 on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.

August 2014
CAL resubmits its application for observer status with the African Commission

April 2015
CAL observer status granted

June 2015
At the 25th African Union Summit, during the consideration of the report of the African Commission, the Executive Council of the African Union took the decision to request the Commission “to take into account the fundamental African values, identity and good traditions, and to withdraw the observer status granted to NGOs who may attempt to impose values contrary to the African values; in this regard, requests the ACHPR to review its criteria for granting observer status to NGOs and to withdraw the observer status granted to the Organization called CAL, in line with those African Values.”

November 2015
CAL and the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria approach the African Court for an Advisory Opinion seeking clarification with respect to how the word “consider” in article 59(3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) should be interpreted.

March 2016
South Africa hosts the first Africa Regional Seminar on Practical Solutions on Ending Violence and Discrimination against Persons Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression, CAL together with other CASRA members AMSHeR, ISLA and Heartland Alliance, in partnership with Pan African ILGA host a civil society Pre-conference, where ACHPR commissioners attended the regional seminar

April 2016
ACHPR launch their report Ending Violence and Other Human Rights Violations based on Sexual Orientaiton and Gender Identity – A Joint Dialogue of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and United Nations

May 2017
The African Court renders its opinion in a matter brought by Nigeria-based NGO, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). In the SERAP decision, the Court stated that the interpretation of “an African organisation recognised by the AU” only applies to NGOs with memorandums of understanding with the AU or organisations with observer status with the African Union, and not the ACHPR, which is an organ of the AU but not the AU itself. Thus in the Court’s view, SERAP’s observer status with the ACHPR, but not the AU, meant that SERAP was not entitled to bring an advisory request before the court, and consequently the Court did not engage with the substantive issues raised in the request.

28 September 2017
The African Court delivers 10 opinions, including a number of advisory opinion requests made by NGOs. Among these, is the CAL and CHR request. The Court abides by its previous decision reached in the SERAP matter and finds that CAL and CHR are not entitled to bring advisory requests before the court as they do not have AU observer status or a memorandum of understanding with the AU. The Court does not engage with the substantive issues raised in the request i.e. the question of whether the AU Executive Council can request the ACHPR to alter its decisions.

January 2018
The ACHPR defends it decision to grant CAL observer status in its bi-annual activity report to the Executive Council stating:

“a. The decision on the grant of the Observer Status was properly taken in terms of the Commission’s established processes and criteria.

  1. The Commission is mandated to give effect to the African Charter under which everyone is entitled to the rights and subject to the duties spelt out in the Charter, and it is the duty of the Commission to protect those rights in line with the mandate entrusted to it under Article 45 of the Charter, without any discrimination because of status or other circumstances.
  2. While fulfilling this mandate, the Commission remains alive to and mindful of the imperative not to encroach on domestic policy matters that fall outside its purview.
  3. The Commission will continue to scrutinize the notion of ‘African Values’ within the framework of its mandate to interpret the African Charter.”

January 2018
In response to the ACHPR report, the Executive Council expressed “concern on the non-implementation” of its 2015 decision and reiterated its directive to withdraw CAL’s observer status while asserting that the ACHPR’s independence is “functional” and does not give it autonomy from the AU’s political organs. The Executive Council further called for a meeting between the ACHPR and the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (PRC) “to resolve various concerns expressed about the relationship between the ACHPR and the Policy Organs and Member States.”

4 – 5 June 2018
At the Joint Retreat of the PRC and the ACHPR a series of decisions undermining the ACHPR mandate and independence were taken, also reflected in the Executive Council’s thirty third ordinary session decisions, including instructing the ACHPR to withdraw CAL’s observer status before 31 December 2018 in accordance with previous decisions of AU Policy Organs.”

8 August 2018
The ACHPR withdraws CAL’s observer status stating the reason as compliance with the decision of the AU Executive Council.

November 2018
CAL and partners launch a regional and global campaign to defend the autonomy and the human rights mandate of the ACHPR: The Independence Campaign and issue a joint civil society statement.