The African Union has given birth to a new entity, the African Union Commission on International Law (AUCIL). This new advisory organ to the AU is established in terms of Article 2 of the Statute of the African Union Commission on International Law that was adopted by the Assembly of the Union during the 12th Ordinary Session held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February 2009. The primary objectives of the AUCIL are designated in Article 4 of the Statute. Particularly important in this regard is Article 4 (a), which underscore that the AUCIL has:
“to undertake the activities relating to the codification and progressive development of international law in the African continent with particular attention to the laws of the Union as embodied in the treaties of the Union ,in the decisions of the policy organs of the Union and in the African Customary International Law arising from the practice of Member States.”
It must be underscored that the objectives and relationships respectively between the AUCIL and the African Union are tantamount to those between the International Law Commission (ILC) and the United Nations. This can be gleaned from the striking similarities in the provisions of both the Statute of the ILC and the Statute of the AUCIL and also in the functions of both institutions. For example Article 1 of the ILC Statute is the equivalent of Article 4(a) of the AUCIL Statute. This goes to underpin the trite and banal fact that the African International Law and Human Rights system relies predominantly on the UN, the European and Inter-American Human rights systems for the development of its international law and human rights jurisprudence.
Other functions of the AUCIL are to include, among others, the progressive development of international law (Art. 5), the codification of international law (Art. 6), contribution to other objectives and principles of the AU (Art. 7), to propose the review of treaties where necessary (Art. 8), cooperate with universities and institutions and other education and research centres in order to ensure the study and dissemination of international law (Art. 9), cooperate with other relevant organs of the AU under Article 24 and cooperation with other organizations in order to broaden its consultation base (Art.25). Article 9 is particularly important as it further entrenches the aspirations of the UN in terms of human rights education and dissemination. If fully implemented the provision has the potential to advance and increase the literacy levels of many African societies in terms of human rights awareness.
Membership of the AUCIL is in terms of Article 3 of the Statute, which underscores that the body shall comprise of eleven members of recognized competence in international law who are nationals of Member States of the AU (cf Article 2 of the ILC Statute). The term of office for the members so appointed is five years and can be renewed (by way of re-election) once for further five years after expiration in terms of Article 12 (1). It must be noted that the first round of elections to the AUCIL will be conducted during the 15th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU scheduled for June/ July 2009. The available French version of the Statute of the AUCIL can be accessed here.