What Has The African Union Done For You? Pt II; Rights


The ‘African Charter on Human and People’s Rights’ (1981) recognises many civil and political rights, including:
– The right to freedom from discrimination
– The right to life
– The right to freedom from slavery
– The right to freedom from mistreatment
The right to a fair trial
– The right to freedom of religion

It also recognises a number of ‘economic, social, and cultural rights’ including;
– The right to work
– The right to health
– The right to education

It also recognises certain collective, or ‘group’ rights;
– The right to self-determination
– The right to development
– The right to peace

Finally, there are certain duties that come with these rights, including;
– The duty to work to the best of one’s abilities
– The duty to preserve and strengthen positive African cultural values
– The duty to promote African unity
These rights exist to protect people from unjust treatment – their defence, then, is a hugely important task.


The Charter is supported by several institutions and mechanisms:

The ‘African commission on Human and Peoples’ rights’, founded in 1986, is tasked with enforcing the ‘Charter’ in practise.

The Commission:
– Collects and distributes relevant information
– Encourages and organises human rights institutions
– Makes recommendations to governments.

The ‘African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (ACHPR), officially established in 2006, has the power to issue legal judgement on Human Rights issues, like national courts do. This court is not recognised by all African states, and neither is it technically a part of the African Union; however, the African Union (AU) and the Court do sometimes work together, and a merger between the ‘ACHPR’ and the Union’s ‘Court of Justice’ is currently underway.

Finally, the ability of the AU to protect Human Rights is further enhanced by its ‘right to intervene’ militarily in cases of HR violation.


The AU and its associated organs have not been entirely successful. Whilst the Court has made frequent recommendations, the AU has rejected them just as frequently, and neither the commission nor the Court has any independent enforcement power.
However, the AU has undoubtedly been more successful than its predecessor; through the creation of new institutions, and a change in its methods, the AU has, at the very least, highlighted the importance of rights – a valuable first step towards further change.



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