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The opaque nature of Israel’s observer status in the African Union

Nov 17, 2021

By Staff Writer

In July 2021, Israel was granted observer status in the African Union, which it sought since its constitution in 2003. This followed warming ties between Tel Aviv and many African states, as Netanyahu leveraged Israeli aid and security assistance in a successful attempt to obtain diplomatic support.

However, the process was opaque; there was no vote and/or discussion about granting observer status. Further, no proper processes and procedures exist to assess observer status, and its granting within the AU. However, a group of lawyers, including US-based Stanley Cohen, have sought to challenge this, filing a case at the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, arguing that aside from proper process, Israeli observer status was antithetical to the AU’s goals.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Stanley Cohen argued that the process was opaque and classical Israeli behaviour. Israel waited and, during a down session of the African Union, apparently reached some consensus or conclusion with one or two leaders of the executive body who unilaterally granted Israel’s Observer status. Without a vote from a united African Union, without any support from the membership of the African Union, but solely based on who knows what.”

This was different from previous processes, Cohen argued, where the decision would first need discussion and then a possible vote by the AU member states, many of whom would not consent to Israel’s colonialist project, but it was down due to the Coronavirus crisis.

Cohen argued that it would be difficult to say whether the case would succeed, but it was only one in a broader phase of processes aiming to ensure accountability. Further, he argued that it would hopefully delineate the processes and procedures for granting observer status in the organisation. Tel Aviv is likely to also respond to the case, with cross-examinations likely to occur.

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