decriminalise petty offences in africa

The regional campaign to Decriminalise Petty Offences in Africa is the founding movement of the campaign, focused on repealing colonial-era nuisance-related laws across Africa.

The need for a campaign focusing on the Decriminalisation of Petty Offences in Africa emanated from research by like-minded organisations observing that petty offence laws were arbitrarily and disproportionately enforced against poor and marginalised persons.
The overall impression is that these laws are used to target people regarded as ‘undesirable’ and ‘unwanted’, not because they pose a threat to public safety, but rather because they are powerless and ‘do not belong’.  These notions of a particular social order hark back to colonial times.

The problem is enabled on the one hand by a myriad of laws, municipal by-laws and petty offences, and on the other hand, notions of social order that have their roots in the colonial era. Many of these petty offences were enforced by colonial powers to control African populations and protect their economic interests in the African colonies. These laws remained intact in many post-colonial African jurisdictions despite former colonial powers either having abolished it or making it non-arrestable offences in their own jurisdictions, (e.g. United Kingdom and France). These laws and the threat of their enforcement has in many jurisdictions become a source of income for officials through extortion.

Founding partners

Flagship Resources

On 4 December 2020, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (the Court) rendered a landmark Advisory Opinion on the consonance of the Vagrancy Laws with the African Charter on Human...

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) approved a model law intended to transform the Police services in Africa from what they termed as oppressive to one that respects and promotes democracy...

The criminal justice system in many African countries is characterized by widespread criminalization and punishment of petty offenses through arbitrary arrests which provides a basis for the violation of human rights of...

Evidence and Arguments for the Decriminalisation and Declassification of Petty Offences The Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action on Accelerating Prison and Penal Reform in Africa of 20031 endorsed recommendations...

Latest Related Updates

From ACJR & Reformar: It was reported from Guinea Bissau on 20 March 2023 that a new law will prohibit Islamic leaders using children for begging. The President of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro...
Date: March 2023
Update Type: In the News   |   Updates from our Partners   |   Recent Events
Partners ACJR, Lawyers Alert, CHREAA, LHR and ICJ-K hereby cordially invite you to the first of a series of webinars on sub-national governance and the criminalisation of poverty and status,...
Date: March 2023
Update Type: Recent Events
Amnesty International: On 22 March 2023, Amnesty International submitted a third-party intervention to the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the case...
Date: March 2023
Update Type: In the Courts   |   Campaign Activities

Related Resources


The Campaign to Decriminalise Poverty and Status is a coalition of organisations from across the world that advocate for the repeal of laws that target people based on poverty, status or for their activism.


#DecrimPoverty   |  #DecrimStatus  |  #DecrimActivism