European Convention Human Rights African Charter Human Peoples' Rights. Critically review analyse similarities differences instruments. *Assessment criteria: Students adopt analytical approach questions a descriptive .
Human rights have become one of the most important issues under discussion at the moment, largely due to the constant fighting that is taking place especially in African countries doubled by the ongoing abuses in terms of human rights, not only in Africa but also throughout the world.
From this point-of-view, there was a clear necessity of transforming the need to have basic human rights comprised in a legally binding document into a transnational document. Such documents are now created at the level of regions and even continents. The present paper analyses two important legal documents for this area, the European Charter for Human Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. There are essential documents for Europe and Africa as they tried to set the tone for a uniform applied human rights doctrine.
The African continent is seen nowadays as being one of the most volatile regions in the world. Despite its enormous natural and human potential, it fails to take advantage of the resources at hand and continues to be a security threat at a regional level, as well as at a global one. There have been numerous humanitarian interventions and force interventions on the African continent as a result of human rights abuses on the continent. Thus, Rwanda was a tragic example of the consequences of human rights abuses. By the time the world became aware of the raced- based massacres in Kigali, it was much too late to stop the genocide. Despite the fact that years later, the ones that organized and supported the genocide were brought before the International Criminal Court for Rwanda, the abuses that took place in the country remain some of the most horrific crimes against humanity and human rights ever to be suffered by the world.
Rwanda is just a tragic example. Yet abuses have taken place in South Africa during the apartheid in the early 90s, in Sierra Leone as a result of decade old civil wars, or in Ethiopia or Eritrea. The United Nations through its mission as a global organization tried to offer the legal support needed to establish a clear cut direction for the protection of human rights in Africa. However, despite the universality of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, there was a stringent need for a regional mechanism that would fit and accommodate the necessities of the African peoples, rather than a general guideline for human rights protection all over the world. The African Charter is in this sense the result of both decades of human rights abuses and of the struggle to include the protection of human rights in the legally binding system of law.
By comparison, the European Convention on Human Rights tried to answer less stringent needs. Indeed, the Second World War represented a crucial time for Europe in particular due to the massive loss of lives among the civilians. The abuses that took place in the concentration camps and the communist gulags are as well evidence of the tragedies suffered by the European peoples. However, given the system set in place after the end of the war, the European continent came to experience an increase in democratic status, even if the communist pressures were being felt more and more powerful. The economic boost that Europe experienced at the time reduced the degree of human rights abuses. Even so, abuses, at a different level and scale from the African continent, remained a crucial issue. In this sense, the first European-based organization, the Council of Europe, set in motion the creation of the European Convention. The document was signed in 1950 in Rome. The Council of Europe was not the first European organization as the European Community was the first European Project. Still, the Council of Europe offered membership to all European countries, regardless of their political regime. Still, the first condition imposed by the Council was the respect for human rights.
The European Convention on Human Rights as well as the African Charter for Human and Peoples' Rights are two legal documents that have been the result of an institutional effort. In this sense, while for the European Convention, the Council of Europe and its member states ratified it, the Organization of African Unity created the African Charter in 1981. This similarity is important from two points-of-view. On the one hand, it proves the necessity of a legal document to certify the importance of the protection of human rights at a regional level. On the other hand, it was a sign of unity and collaboration at the level of the African Unity. This is crucial because, as stated previously, the African continent has been perhaps the most violent place in the world after the Middle East.
The African Charter is fundamentally different from the European Convention. Firstly, in terms of historical timing, the European Convention came at a moment in time when the European continent, as stated previously, had experienced war and was recovering. By comparison, the African Charter was drafted starting from 1979, and was the result of the "Decision 115 (XVI) of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at its Sixteenth Ordinary Session held in Monrovia, Liberia, from 17 to 20 July 1979 on the preparation of a "preliminary draft on an African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights providing inter alia for the establishment of bodies to promote and protect human and peoples' rights"
. Thus, the process started as the decolonization process was at its peak. At the same time, it was not necessarily the decolonization process but rather the effects of the changes that took place during this time. Thus, it was only natural that the provisions of the Charter to include elements related not only to individual human rights but also to the rights of the peoples as entities in international relations. This approach was clearly the result of the constant struggles of the African continent to self-determination and independence.
The first element to be taken into account is the main reference made by the two acts. Both acts make reference in the beginning of the texts to the UN Declaration on Human Rights of 1948. This comes to point out that there is a single reference system, and that it includes the UN act as the major progress brought to the legality of human rights protection. Moreover, the acceptance and reference made to the UN document points out the fact that the provisions enacted through the two subsequent documents offer at least the minimum protection offered by the Declaration on Human Rights of the United Nations.
The aim of the two documents is slightly different and it underlines the different backgrounds these two acts come from. Thus, the European Convention clearly points out the role of the Council of Europe and sets the stage for the document. In this sense, "the aim of the Council of Europe is the achievement of greater unity between its Members and that one of the methods by which the aim is to be pursued is the maintenance and further realization of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" (Council of Europe 2010). Therefore, there are several conclusions to be drawn from this. On the one hand, the role of the Council of Europe is not to reduce the war conditions or the poverty on the continent, but rather to achieve greater unity, which is in fact a clear sign of democratic rule and status quo.
By comparison, the African Charter focuses clearly on the regional nature of the document. In its beginning, the Charter takes into account perhaps the most important ideas that are developed throughout the document. Thus, the Charter makes reference to the UN Declaration and to "the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, which stipulates, "Freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples"
. There are several elements to be mentioned at this time. One is the clear distinction being made between a universal document such as the UN Declaration and the regional document for Africa. The explicit reference to the Charter of the OAU places in time, space, and history the Charter for Human Rights. This is due to the fact that in the 1970s it was considered by the international community that the only effective means through which regional conflicts could have been better managed was through a regional force that deployed soldiers from neighboring countries, rather that a global initiative the UN would have set up
. In this sense, the role of the OAU became even more important in its assessment and managing of regional conflicts in Africa. Therefore, the Organization became an emblem for African reconciliation and conflict resolution.
The second aspect that is important in the preamble is related to the reference made to the objectives of the OAU.…