The African Union (AU) is an intergovernmental organisation with 53 member states that was established on 9th July 2002 and succeeded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The Assembly of the African Union is the semi-annual meeting of the Heads of State and governments of its member states. The AU’s secretariat is called the African Union Commission (it will be renamed as African Union Authority). It is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and acts as the executive and administrative branch of the AU. It must be distinguished from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The main objectives of the AU are to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent; to promote and defend African common positions; to achieve peace and security in Africa; and to promote democratic institutions, good governance and human rights.
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has been established through Article 30 (and subsequent Articles) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. It consists of 11 members elected by the contracting states of the Charter and is assigned to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa. It interprets the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and considers individual complaints of Charter violations. The Commission is based in Banjul, Gambia. It meets twice a year, usually in March or April and in October or November.
The Commission has three human rights monitoring procedures:
- The state-reporting procedure. State parties to the African Charter are required to submit periodic reports to the ACHPR for consideration every two years. State reporting has provided a forum for state parties to account for the human rights situation, standards and advances in their countries. More or less half of the state parties regularly submit their state reports on time.
- The inter-state complaints procedure. A state that considers another state party to have violated the provisions of the Charter is allowed to inform the secretary-general of the AU and the Chairman of the Commission by written communication. The accused state is also informed of the submitted communication and has the opportunity to provide a written explanation. If no settlement is reached within three months among the state parties, they can refer the matter to the Commission. The “inter-state complaints procedure” may be seen as an indirect means of appeal for individuals and NGOs, through other state parties.
- The individual complaints procedure. Anyone can bring a complaint to the attention of the Commission alleging that a State party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights has violated one or more of the rights contained therein.
Responsibility for the information and views set out in this Toolkit lies entirely with the authors.