Human Rights Protection Mechanisms in Africa: Strong Potential, Weak Capacity

04-02-2013

The African Union (AU) has three principal mechanisms for protecting human rights on the continent: a Charter, a Commission and a Court all devoted to Human and Peoples' Rights. These are complemented by other specific instruments, by the work of the AU institutions and by various international and national laws. Despite this complex web, human rights are still violated in numerous African countries. The reasons stem from the fact that many legal instruments have not been ratified, that the human rights system suffers from weak capacity and — crucially — that many AU member states lack the political will to improve the situation. Human rights are an important element of AU–EU relations in the framework of the bi-regional Joint Strategy (JAES), although the results of this partnership have so far been disappointing. The new AU Commission, elected in 2012, may be more ready to engage on a substantive dialogue on the matter. The change presents an important opportunity to deepen the dialogue on dedicated human rights forums and to emphasise human rights as an essential element of common AU–EU approaches to other areas, such as development or peace and security in Africa.

The African Union (AU) has three principal mechanisms for protecting human rights on the continent: a Charter, a Commission and a Court all devoted to Human and Peoples' Rights. These are complemented by other specific instruments, by the work of the AU institutions and by various international and national laws. Despite this complex web, human rights are still violated in numerous African countries. The reasons stem from the fact that many legal instruments have not been ratified, that the human rights system suffers from weak capacity and — crucially — that many AU member states lack the political will to improve the situation. Human rights are an important element of AU–EU relations in the framework of the bi-regional Joint Strategy (JAES), although the results of this partnership have so far been disappointing. The new AU Commission, elected in 2012, may be more ready to engage on a substantive dialogue on the matter. The change presents an important opportunity to deepen the dialogue on dedicated human rights forums and to emphasise human rights as an essential element of common AU–EU approaches to other areas, such as development or peace and security in Africa.