Our history

IHRDA was founded and established in 1998 in Banjul, The Gambia, by two human rights lawyers, Julia Harrington and Alpha Fall, who had worked for the Secretariat of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Alpha Fall and Julia Harrington (in the middle) awarding participants after a training workshop in 2003.

IHRDA’s vision is to see a continent where all have access to justice, using national, African and international human rights law and mechanisms for the promotion and protection of their rights.

IHRDA’s mandate is to increase the effectiveness and accessibility of the human rights protection mechanisms of the African Union, since the most critical challenge to the effectiveness of the African human rights system is a lack of awareness concerning its procedures. IHRDA has undertaken to promote respect for human rights on the continent by strengthening the human rights institutions in Africa, ensuring compliance with the existing norms and making the system widely accessible to victims of human rights violations and other actors of civil society.

IHRDA believes that African human rights law can be a powerful tool for advocacy and justice if civil society has the necessary information and training to use treaties effectively.

To achieve its mandate, IHRDA uses its particular expertise in the application of African human rights law to:

  • Train the NGO community and other human rights activists and workers in how to investigate, prepare and present cases of human rights violations before the African human rights treaty bodies;
  • Serve as pro bono counsel for individuals and NGOs litigating their cases against State parties before the African human rights treaty bodies;
  • Research emerging areas of human rights law and development in Africa for publication and dissemination;
  • Network and collaborate with other human rights NGOs and African human rights treaty bodies for the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa;
  • Advocate for legal reforms in the areas of human rights at the national and and continental levels in Africa.

On February 11 2008, IHRDA celebrated ten years of standing up for human rights in Africa. Throughout the year, all IHRDA publications were marked with a special ten year anniversary banner.