A weakened African human rights system?
Conversation with Prof Frans Viljoen
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights are key mechanisms within the regional human rights system. However, the African Union’s Executive Council’s June 2018 Decision 1015 raises concerns that the African Commission is being undermined, weakening the protection of human rights.
Looking at this moment of crisis, Professor Frans Viljoen (Director, Centre for Human Rights) provides an insight into the motivations behind the Executive Council’s decision; from the contention surrounding the African Commission’s granting of observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians, to the historical tension between the AU’s policy organs and the African Commission. During the discussion the push and pull between the African Commission and the State Parties is contextualised, the assertion of state sovereignty explained, as well as how the replacement of the AU Assembly by the Executive Council in terms of receiving the African Commission’s report change the dynamic. We consider to what extent the autonomy and independence of the African Commission is threatened by Decision 1015 and what incorporating the African Commission as an AU institution could mean for the protection of human rights.
Given Decision 1015’s challenge against the African Commission’s interpretative mandate, the discussion explores the relationship between the Commission and the Court and the potential implications of the decision. Prof Viljoen highlights how the debate surrounding the Commission’s mandate and role can be used to bring out the utility and role of the Commission, alerting states to the benefits it offers and to prevent limitations on the African human rights system.
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