AU Watch

What We Do

The AU’s Agenda 2063 and its First Ten-Year Implementation Plan underscore the importance of these ideals as part of the drive towards the ‘Africa-We-Want’.The AU’s Transitional Justice Policy (TJP) is conceived as a continental guideline for African Union AUMember 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 societies with legacies of violent conflicts and systemic or gross violations of human and peoples’ rights face peculiar challenges in respect of their pursuit of these objectives. The TJP is meant to assist AU Member States to address these objectives in an integrated and sustainable manner. The AUTJP is the African model and mechanism for dealing with not only the legacies of conflicts and violations, but also governance deficits and developmental challenges with a view to advancing the noble goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want.

Article 4(o) of the Constitutive Act of the AU calls for peaceful resolution of conflicts, respect for the sanctity of human life and the condemnation and rejection of impunity. Article 4(h) further confers enormous powers on the AU to intervene within its Member States in cases of mass atrocities, grave human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and genocide. Article 19 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) guarantees the right of all peoples to equality, hence proscribing oppression.

The United Nations has identified four pillars of transitional justice:

Truth

Establishing and acknowledging the truth on the violations committed is the first step towards social dialogue and even reconciliation. All parties to the conflict, and most importantly victims and their families, have the right to make their voice heard and their questions answered. Society at large has the right to know the truth about past events and the perpetration of heinous crimes. This is pivotal to address – and possibly punish – past abuses, but it also represents a solid bulwark against the recurrence of similar violations in the future.

Reparation

Victims of gross human rights violations have the right to receive adequate reparation for the harm suffered. Measures of reparation go well beyond economic compensation, and may also include symbolic gestures, such as public apologies and the building of memorials, and measures aiming at improving the lives of victims and their families, like scholarships or access to health services.

Guarantees of non-recurrence

Learning from past mistakes, all efforts must be made to prevent gross human rights violations in the future. This includes mainly institutional reforms reinforcing accountability, transparency and fairness.

Justice

The identification and prosecution of perpetrators of gross human rights violations and international crimes is crucial, as it serves both a preventive and reparative purpose. Strong accountability mechanisms show that atrocities do not go unpunished, thereby deterring future abuses.

 

Transitional justice mobilizes numerous actors: international, regional and national institutions as well as civil society organizations. On the long run, the work on transitional justice is to re-establish the rule of law and public trust towards in state institutions.

  • AU Watch works for justice in countries in Africa that have endured massive human rights abusesand in conflict. We work with victims, civil society groups, national, and international organizations to ensure redress for victims and to help prevent atrocities from happening again.AU Watch provides assistance to victims, litigates cases, develops local capacity and pushes the human rights agenda forward.
  • Research is at the heart of our understanding the field of transitional justice. Our research aims to build a theoretical and practical understanding of the role of ‘transitional justice’, and the underlying relationship between justice and peace. It also examines the role of the international and domestic legal systems and institutions in facilitating transition from conflict to peace.Our researchers engage in scholarly and policy work across a number of connected fields including law, political science, sociology, feminist theory and anthropology.
  • We bring human rights and international law expertise to bear on a range of complex human rights issues byconductingauthoritative analyses and We therefore espouse an ‘active research’ model, wherein we engage with institutions, policy-makers and communities (internationally and locally) generating research, and research generating engagement.
  • In the aftermath of mass atrocity and repression, we assist institutions and civil society groups—the people who are driving and shaping change in their societies—in considering measures to provide truth, accountability, and redress for past abuses.We workwith societies in transition to address legacies of massive human rights violations building civic trust in state institutions as protectors of human rights.

Articles 40, 41 and 42 of the AU Policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD), under its chapter on Human Rights, Justice and Reconciliation, recognize 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 the PCRD; 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 ACHPR; 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.

  • We engage in strategic litigation. We identify and pursue cases as part of our strategy to promote human rights. These cases expose injustices, raise awareness and bringing about changes in legislation, policy and practice. We also support other organisations litigating before regional courts by submitting amicus curiae briefs. We also have a small fund to support litigants and their lawyers.
  • We advocate. Through our research, media, education and outreach work we raise awareness and influencing decision-makers at the regionally, nationally and locally.We advocate for the rights of the victims of international crimes, their families and their defenders, making sure their voices are heard before national and regional tribunals.
  • We give support. AU Watch operates a counselling service. Our service is intended to provide short-term counselling, psychiatric support and group workshops to help you manage a range of personal, emotional and psychological concerns. We are unable to provide support for long-term conditions or in the event of a crisis situation.
  • We build capacity. In many countries in Africa the judicial system is unwilling or unable to prosecute gross violations of human rights. Impunity is inevitable. We provide training for members of the bench and bar, prosecutors, journalists, civil society and local community members. The aim of such training is to raise these actors’ awareness of victims’ rights and needs, and to share with them the best legal practices to curb impunity.
  • In collaboration with Legacy University in The Gambia, we are developing a number of short-courses for post-graduate study. More details to follow.

How We Work

Restoring respect for the rule of law means fighting impunity and seeking accountability for serious violations of human rights and advocating for the strengthening of accountable institutions and restoring confidence in them. Our work at the Transitional Justice Unit also include increasing access to justice for the most vulnerable in society, establishing a foundation to address the underlying causes of conflict and marginalization, encouraging and facilitating peace and advancing the cause of reconciliation.

We do this important work by
• Partnering with victims and activists
• Advisingthe AU and its Members, local and community members how to pursue justice in complex, changing environment
• Conveningground-breaking forums and discussions

Also, through our media, education, outreach, research and publications we hold the AU and its Members to accountable to the standards they have set for themselves.