AU Watch

Soft Law Instruments

The term soft law is used to denote agreements, principles and declarations that are not legally binding. Soft law instruments are predominantly found in the international sphere. UN General Assembly resolutions are an example of soft law. Hard law refers generally to legal obligations that are binding on the parties involved and which can be legally enforced before a court.

The proliferation and multifaceted nature of soft law within the human rights field is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Soft law may be a useful addition to the human rights ‘armoury’, designed not only to influence state behaviour but also the strategy and policy of the African Commission itself in respect of a particular issue.

For a good read about the use of Soft Law within the African Human Rights System, please consult

The Role and Use of Soft Law Instruments in the African Human Rights System

Long, D & Murray, R, 2016, ‘The Role and Use of Soft Law Instruments in the African Human Rights System’. in: Thomas Gamelltoft Hansen, Stephanie Lagoutte, John Cerone (eds) Tracing the Roles of Soft Law in Human Rights. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 89-107