African Human Rights System

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established on 25 May 1963 with the main objective to rid  the continent of colonization and apartheid. Its aims were to promote unity among African States; to coordinate cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its members and to promote international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations. On 9 July 2002 the Organization was disbanded by its last chairperson, Thabo Mbeki, (South African President).

The Organisation was then replaced by the African Union (AU). The African Union was established to allow Africa to become “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa,  driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The Durban Summit in 2002 launched the African Union and convened the First Assembly of the Heads of States of the African Union. The African Union has among its aims to encourage international cooperation; taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent; to promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments; and to promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples.  

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, which is an organ of the African Union, was established in October 1986 and is responsible for ensuring the promotion and protection of Human and Peoples' Rights throughout the African Continent. The African Commission is a quasi-judicial body.

In June 1998 the Organization of African Unity’s Heads of State signed the Protocol to establish the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Court has the competence to make final and binding decisions on human rights violations perpetrated by African Union Member States. The Court has jurisdiction over cases regarding the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Charter), the Protocol to the Charter on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (Court's Protocol) and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by States that are party to a case. The African Court was to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission by issuing binding decisions and ordering specific remedies.

However there was also the establishment of an African Court of Justice by the African Union. It was intended to be the principal judicial organ of the African Union to settle disputes over interpretation of African Union treaties. It was to serve as a absolute  Criminal Court for the Continent.

The African Court of Justice and the African Court of Human and People’s Right merged in July 2008 to become what is now known as the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

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