n African Human Rights Law Journal - Evaluating a decade of the African Union's protection of human rights and democracy : a post-Tahrir assessment

Volume 12, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



When the African Union was established, replacing the Organisation of African Unity, many were enthusiastic that it would champion the cause of human rights and democracy, one of the areas in which its predecessor had failed. Among the reasons for optimism was the fact that the African Union's Constitutive Act was a lot more empathetic for the cause of human rights and democratic ideals. This article contends that, while the Constitutive Act might be potentially important, it is but one among many conditioning factors for the Union's actions. The article argues that the most important determining factor for the Union's success or failure is the human rights track record of member states and the perceived or real dependence of elites within these states on human rights violations. Other conditioning factors, such as international legal obligations created by the Constitutive Act and other treaties, pressure from pan-African sentiment within the AU, and pressure from the AU's human rights organs play only a secondary and a comparatively minor role in affecting the AU's behaviour.

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