The objectives of the African Union (AU) are to achieve greater unity and solidarity among African countries and the peoples of Africa, defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member states, and promote peace, security and stability on the continent, among others. Since its founding, the AU has developed norms on ensuring peace, combating impunity, and promoting accountability, reparation, reconciliation, healing and national cohesion on the continent, as reflected in Articles 4(o) and 4(h) of its Constitutive Act, Articles 6 and 14 of the Protocol Establishing the Peace and Security Council, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Drawing on lessons learnt from transitional justice processes in Africa, the AU in 2019 adopted the Transitional Justice Policy as a stand-alone framework that “lends clarity and comprehensiveness to the principles in AU instruments, frameworks, and policies, allowing ease of reference and normatively consistent application” (para. 15). This policy, in concert with other AU instruments and studies, provides stakeholders with an African model of transitional justice to implement, engage with critically and build upon.
Constitutive Act of the African Union
The Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) sets out the codified framework under which the African Union is to conduct itself. Article 4(o) calls for peaceful resolution of conflicts, respect for the sanctity of human life and the condemnation and rejection of impunity. Article 4(h) confers powers on the AU to intervene within its member states in cases of mass atrocities, grave human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and genocide.
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms on the African continent. It emerged under the aegis of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), which at its 1979 Assembly of Heads of State and Government adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a committee of experts to draft a continent-wide human rights instrument, similar to those in Europe (European Convention on Human Rights) and the Americas (American Convention on Human Rights). Article 19 of the African Charter guarantees the right of all peoples to equality, proscribing oppression.
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was established through a protocol to the African Charter. The Protocol on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 9 June 1998 and entered into force on 25 January 2004. The court was established in order to complement the protective mandate of the African Union Commission. Its decisions are final and binding on state parties to the protocol. The purpose of the court is, inter alia, to uphold the protection of human rights on the continent.
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance was adopted by African Union (AU) member states on 30 January 2007 in order to promote liberal democracy and human rights in Africa. The first binding document adopted by the AU, it includes several provisions aimed at combating unconstitutional regime change. It acknowledges that constitutional coups are a form of unconstitutional regime change.
Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union
Articles 6 and 14 of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) mandate peacekeeping and peacebuilding in order to restore the rule of law and establish conditions for post-conflict rebuilding of society. The protocol underscores the importance of creating frameworks to ensure effective post-conflict transitions.
African Union Transitional Justice Policy
The African Union (AU) Transitional Justice Policy is conceived as a continental guideline for AU member states to develop their own context-specific comprehensive policies, strategies and programmes towards democratic and socio-economic transformation, and achieving sustainable peace, justice, reconciliation, social cohesion and healing.
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Study on Transitional Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights in Africa
The 2019 Study on Transitional Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights in Africa is the first concrete step taken by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to create a charter on transitional justice and elucidate the role of the commission in transitional justice processes on the continent.
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Report on Addressing Human Rights Issues in Conflict Situations
In presenting this 2019 study, Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, pointed out the commission’s long history of engaging with conflict situations, and the role that the study plays in systematising this engagement to address human rights violations in conflict and crisis situations.
African Union Panel of the Wise Report
The African Union Panel of the Wise report, “Non-Impunity, Truth, Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation in Africa: Opportunities and Constraints,” adopted in 2011, recommends the development and adoption of an African policy framework on transitional justice.
Report of African Union High-Level Panel on Darfur
The African Union (AU) High-Level Panel on Darfur, which released its report in 2008, had a mandate to consult various stakeholders in Sudan and make recommendations for addressing peace, social healing, reconciliation, justice and accountability and combating impunity. It was the first bold step that the AU took in addressing transitional justice with its member states.
General Comment No. 3 on the Right to Life
The jurisprudence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has widely recognised the right to life as a foundational right. Without the right to life, other rights cannot be implemented. General Comment No. 3 on the right to life, which is protected by Article 4 of the African Charter, is founded on this fundamental character of the right to life and the necessity to focus on this right. It provides elucidation on the right to life and aligns African Union policy with international trends and law on this topic.
General Comment No. 4 on the Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment
This is a general comment on the right to redress for victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment (torture and other ill-treatment) under Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa
The Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa was adopted by the African Union (AU) assembly in 2004, calling for member states’ continual action towards achieving gender equality and reinforcing their commitment to international and regional women’s rights instruments. The declaration emphasises the need to address the gender dimensions of conflict and to tackle issues of rule of law and hence, by association, transitional justice from a gender perspective.
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol)
The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, better known as the Maputo Protocol, is an international human rights instrument established by the African Union, which went into effect in 2005. It guarantees comprehensive rights to women, including the right to take part in the political process, to social and political equality with men, improved autonomy in their reproductive health decisions, and an end to female genital mutilation.
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child is a comprehensive instrument that sets out rights and defines universal principles and norms for the status of children. The charter is imperative, considering that children are among those most affected in African countries suffering from conflict or massive human rights violations. Children have the right to express their views and be considered in processes concerning them, including transitional justice measures. The charter provides a basis for including children in such processes, by highlighting and entrenching their rights on the continent.
African Union Policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development
Under its chapter on human rights, justice and reconciliation, African Union (AU) Policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development recognises the need to protect human and peoples’ rights. It allows the AU to develop mechanisms to deal with past and ongoing grievances; provide opportunities for a context-based approach to post-conflict reconstruction and development; offer principled guidance on balancing the demands of justice and reconciliation; encourage and facilitate peacebuilding and reconciliation activities from national to grassroots levels; allow for opportunities to invoke traditional mechanisms of reconciliation and/or justice, to the extent that they are consistent with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; establish efficient and independent justice sectors; and provide for the use of AU structures and other relevant AU shared-values instruments to reinforce human rights, justice and reconciliation.
African Union Assembly Decision Assembly/AU/Decl.1(XVI)
This declaration commits the African Union (AU) to enhancing efforts aimed at reinforcing a deeper understanding of shared values and their promotion and popularisation among the African peoples as a means of shaping Africa’s common future and mobilising African peoples towards achieving continental unity.
African Union Assembly Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.501(XXII)
This is a declaration calling on the African Union (AU), in collaboration with member states, to take appropriate measures to promote reconciliation as a means of securing peace, stability and development in Africa.
African Union Agenda 2063
The African Union’s strategic framework, which aims to deliver on its goal of inclusive and sustainable development, is framed as a concrete manifestation of the pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity.