What is content of the General Affairs Jurisdiction of the African Court?


The African Court of Justice (ACJ), was envisioned in the Constitutive Act of the African Union as the principal judicial organ of the AU. The ACJ was to be the body with jurisdiction over general international law disputes, including interpretation of the Constitutive Act and other AU treaties, breaches of obligations to the AU or States Parties, and any other question of international law. A protocol establishing the ACJ was adopted in 2003, and 18 African States subsequently ratified the protocol, with the effect that the protocol has thus entered into force.  The ACJ was never established, however, because it was superseded by a decision to merge the ACJ with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The establishment of the General Affairs Section of the expanded African Court will finally operationalize article 18 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which envisioned the creation of an African Court of Justice.  Although no longer a separate Court, the General Affairs Section fulfills the purposes of the ACJ, namely to provide a peaceful forum for the resolution of inter-State disputes and legal questions, including the interpretation of AU treaties and the legality of AU acts.

The General Affairs Section “shall be competent to hear all cases submitted under Article 28 of the Statute except those assigned to the Human and Peoples’ Rights Section and the International Criminal Law Section” (Art.7 of the Malabo Protocol). The General Affairs Section of the expanded African Court thus will have jurisdiction to examine all cases dealing with:

  • the interpretation and application of the Constitutive Act of the African Union;
  • the interpretation, application or validity of other AU treaties and all legal instruments derived and adopted within the framework of the AU or OAU (apart from those relating to human and peoples’ rights);
  • all questions of international law (apart from those relating to human and peoples’ rights);
  • all acts, decisions, regulations, and directives of AU organs;
  • all matters provided for in any other agreement between States Parties or between States Parties and the AU, provided those agreements conferred jurisdiction on the Court;
  • appeals brought by AU staff members regarding the terms and conditions of their employment;
  • the existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an obligation owed to a State Party or the AU; and
  • the nature or extent of the reparation to be made for breach of an international obligation.