Over the years, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has developed a number of instruments to aid in the interpretation and implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, particularly as it relates to criminal justice. In 2017, the Principles on the Decriminalization of Petty Offences in Africa were adopted by the African Commission. This becomes the latest development in a broader regional effort to articulate standards for acceptable human rights practices, specifically concerning matters of access to justice. This principle advocates for a holistic approach to the challenges that arise in Africa at the intersection between poverty, justice and human rights.
Despite efforts to transform criminal justice administration across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the poor and other marginalized persons remain vulnerable to violation of their rights within the existing criminal justice framework. Such violations extend to both the enactment and enforcement of criminal laws in relation to petty offences, and to the policing which actively seeks to exclude categories of people from areas of public life, namely the poor.