On 5 and 6 June 2024, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) and its partners, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Commonwealth Secretariat (ComSec), held an Africa regional consultation on a human rights-based approach to criminal law with stakeholders in Nairobi, Kenya.

The consultation took place as part of a joint project to produce a Practitioner’s Guide on a human rights-based approach to criminal law, including on ways to further the decriminalisation of poverty, homelessness and status.

The Guide will be launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in October 2024 and will serve as a reference and guide to justice sector actors and others – such legislatures, government officials, policy-makers, national human rights institutions, oversight bodies, victims’ groups, human rights advocates, civil society organizations and academics. The Guide will offer a clear, accessible and operational legal framework and practical legal guidance.

Over 30 participants attended the consultation, including judges, lawyers and civil society from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

Issues discussed included:

  • the applicable international, regional and national criminal law and human rights standards;
  • examples of the criminalisation of conduct associated with poverty, homelessness and status in the region; and
  • the role played by judges, prosecutors, lawyers and civil society in the decriminalisation of conduct associated with poverty, homelessness and status in the region.

Similar further consultations will take place with stakeholders from Asia and the Caribbean respectively later this year.

Further information

You can read more about the project here.

The ICJ has published a set of legal principles (The 8 March Principles) to address the harmful human rights impact of unjustified criminalisation of individuals and entire communities.

The project form part of the global campaign to decriminalise poverty and status.