African Union revoke Israel’s observer status following three-year-long ICJP campaign

London, 20th February 2024- Three years after ICJP began its campaign for the African Union to revoke Israel’s observer status, their status has been suspended. It is important that Israel are permanently banned from the AU, due to their human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

On 22nd July 2021, the African Union (AU) granted observer status to Israel. Since then, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) has been campaigning for the AU to suspend Israel’s status, due to Israel’s human rights violations and crimes against humanity, which fundamentally contradict the union’s constitution. Three years later, the AU has finally decided to suspend Israel’s observer status, in the context of its genocidal campaign in Gaza. 

Supported by Democracy for Arab World Now (DAWN) in the US and the Legal Resource Center (LRC) in South Africa, ICJP provided a legal submission to the Executive Council of the AU in 2021, which was resent to member states in Summer 2023, calling on them to suspend Israel’s observer status. The submission demonstrates how Israel’s actions — especially its commission of the crime of apartheid and persecution — stand in fundamental opposition to the express terms of the AU’s founding document, the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which stresses political independence, human dignity, and economic emancipation. In the context of Israel’s war on Gaza since October, they have proven even more so how far they stray from these values. 

In granting Israel observer status in the first instance, the AU Commission engaged in a process that was neither transparent nor consultative and instead seemed a near-unilateral decision by AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. South African opposition groups, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters, quickly called for Faki’s resignation and Algeria called for removing Israel’s observer status. The South African government, with its own history of struggling against apartheid, called the move “shocking” and stated that it was “appalled” at the Commission’s decision to extend observer status to Israel. The latest move by the African Union to suspend Israel’s status is long overdue, but an important step in ensuring that countries that don’t value the principles of the African Union are not allowed to associate with it or attempt to influence it. 

Haydee Dijkstal, External Chief Counsel at ICJP said:

“No State which has consistently demonstrated a blatant disregard for the principles of the African Union, and for the rule of law, should be granted the privileges which come with observer status – including the ability to influence these very goals and values of the African Union.” 


Notes to Editors:

  1. The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians is an independent organisation of lawyers, politicians and academics who support the rights of Palestinians and aim to protect their rights through the law.
  2. Coverage of ICJP’s initial submission in 2021 to the African Union can be viewed here.
  3. For more information, or to arrange an interview with an ICJP spokesperson, please contact the ICJP news desk at [email protected].