Shadow reporting

Member states are obligated to report to the African Commission every two years, in accordance with its guidelines, on measures they have taken to give effect to the provisions of the African Charter; and its Protocols, including the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa; the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa; the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Citizens to Social Protection and Social Security; the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa; and any other subsequent regional human rights treaties in respect of which the African Commission has the mandate to monitor state reporting.

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Rule 79(3) of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission 2020 invites ‘institutions, organisations or any interested party’ to submit contributions, including shadow reports to help the African Commission consider the state reports.

The Guidelines

The Guidelines on Shadow reports were adopted by the African Commission during its 72nd Ordinary Session held from 19 July to 2 August 2022. They aim to guide interested parties in the way they should structure their shadow reports for ease of use by the African Commission. The guidelines are for relevant stakeholders, including NHRIs, NGOs with Observer Status, institutions and any other interested party submitting Shadow Reports.

  • The Shadow Report must contain reliable, and objective information that is supported by evidence including court cases, official reports, NHRIs annual reports, academic research, surveys, NGO reports, news articles. Sources used in the Report must be clearly cited, where at all possible, and up-to-date statistical information should be provided
  • The report should not include abusive, insulting, or defamatory language against individuals, institutions, or other entities
  • Reports can be thematic or on each provision of the instruments, they can also be on only one instrument or all relevant instruments
  • Shadow reports can be submitted by one party or a group of actors

State Obligations 

  • Shadow reports should consider any concluding observations with respect to the state under consideration, any relevant General Comments, Resolutions, Guidelines, Declarations and Decisions made by the African Commission as well as any other emerging human rights issues pertaining to the state for example from the UN Treaty system.
  • Shadow Report should point out reservations made by state Parties to any of the instruments, the effect of these reservations on the enjoyment of rights and indicate changes that would allow for withdrawal of such reservations.
  • Identify and address other key African human rights instruments that the state is yet to ratify and highlight any progress as well as challenges towards ratification
  • Identify the issue as contained in the state report (including paragraph and page reference)
  • Indicate using evidence why the report is inadequate, inaccurate or incomplete then provide correct or alternative information
  • Clarify what measures the state has taken or neglected to take with respect to specific rights
  • Identify impediments to the realisation of the African Charter and its supplementary Protocols and the IDP Convention both in legislation and practice with recommended approaches
  • Thus, indicate existing discriminatory laws, administrative bureaucracies, ineffective policies and unprincipled judicial systems that hinder implementation of provisions
  • Suggest questions to be put to the state regarding that issue
  • Suggest concrete, implementable recommendations regarding the issue
  • Commend the member state where progress has been made

Practical highlights

  1. Shadow reports and all accompanying documentation should be submitted in at least one of the official languages of the African Union (AU) (French, English, Portuguese, Arabic, Swahili)
  2. They should be submitted at least 30 days before the consideration of the state report
  3. The Shadow Report should clearly identify the submitting organisations or individuals (including, as applicable, letterhead, name and acronym, logo, webpage, email, and postal address)
  4. Shadow Reports shall be made publicly available on the Commission’s website, with the name of the submitting stakeholder(s). Where submitting stakeholder(s) fear retaliation, they can submit a request for the Commission to ensure its anonymity
  5. Written submissions should not exceed 15 pages (additional documentation can be annexed for reference). The cover page, footnotes, and a maximum of 10 annexes will not be counted within the page limits of contributions.
  6. Shadow Reports should be saved and submitted as Word documents only



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