In the Beginning
The idea of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights was mooted in 1961 at the meeting of African jurists in Lagos, Nigeria, which agreed that a human rights charter with a court was necessary.
It was at this meeting that the proposal for continental human rights institutions was first set forth, as evidenced in its preamble, the Law of Lagos:
“In order to give full effect to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, this conference invites the African Governments to study the possibility of adopting an African Convention of Human Rights in such manner that the conclusions of this conference will be safeguarded by the creation of a court of appropriate jurisdiction and that recourse thereto be made available for all persons under the jurisdiction of the signatory states...” (International Commission of Jurists, African Conference on the Rule of Law: A Report on the Proceedings of the Convention 11, 1961)
However, when the Assembly of Heads of States adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights in 1981, the issue of a court was replaced with a commission whose responsibility it was to promote and ensure protection of human rights. The Commission is however constrained by the advisory powers given to it by the Charter.
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was set up to overcome the limitations of the Commission as an advisory body.