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AU Ruling Puts Future of African Commission on Human and People's Rights in Doubt

October 28, 2018

A new ruling by the Executive Committee of the African Union greatly restricts the authority of the ACHPR in its fight to stop human rights abuses across Africa.

The domed ceiling of the Nelson Mandela plenary hall at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: Andrew Moore, CC

In that decision, the AU Executive Council said that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, once a strong champion for human rights across all AU member nations, only had a “functional nature”. As such, it was not to be acting independently of the organizations and structures across the continent which had created it. If also warned that the ACHPR was supposed to act only as an “appellate body” and should never be undercutting the legal systems of individual nations.

The problem with the decision is not just that this directly counters the original charter defined for the body, which included:

  • Promoting human and people’s rights
  • Protecting human and people’s rights
  • Interpreting the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights

The problem also is that the new ruling puts individual nations’ legal systems above that of the ACHPR. Doing so then makes it impossible for the Commission to investigate, evaluate and rule on issues of human rights within perhaps repressive states, where the people themselves have lost all other recourse.

As reported in Trillions, this decision, along with others like it happening in parallel within the AU and throughout Africa, appear to be slowly but surely ripping apart the moral and legal authority of what used to be considered one of the strongest champions of Human Rights abuses in the world – not just in Africa.

Many are fighting to keep that from happening, but without quick reversals of some of the most recent decisions by the AU Executive Council, the ACHPR may be doomed to become a mere figurehead with no power to mandate human rights change. Its ability to fight for the rights of the abused in places as diverse as Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua would be forever curtailed.

Copyright: North America Procurement Council Inc., PBC