Decision 1015 aims to pull the carpet from under the African Charter system. The reason why these very states in 1981 created the African Charter was to establish a system of independent oversight over the human rights enjoyed by the people of Africa. The African Commission as autonomous interpreter of the African Charter was placed at the core of this system. The principle of the rule of law – both at national and at AU level — requires that executives respect judiciaries’ interpretative function. By insisting that its own interpretation of the Charter overrides that of the Commission, the Executive Council has not only undermined the Commission’s autonomy, but also subverted the AU’s internal rule of law.
However, we are concerned about Decision 1015 of the Africa Union Executive Council reached in June 2018 for the impact it has on the work of the Commission.
This decision outlines that the “independence enjoyed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is only of a functional nature and not independence from the same organs that created the body.” We submit that this is a misunderstanding of international law, as the Commission was not created by AU organs but by a treaty: the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Moreover, the Charter guarantees the institutional, functional and personal independence of the Commission and its Commissioners. To be able to carry out its duties effectively, the Commission must work free of all external interference from Africa Union political and policy organs.