Israel’s Observer Status at the African Union

In July of 2021 the African Union (AU) granted Israel ‘Observer Status’, this provides non-African States access to the work of the AU, closed meetings, and the highest level of access to decision making. ICJP provided a legal submission to the AU Executive Council, which was supported by Democracy for Arab World Now (DAWN), requesting that the observer status of Israel be revoked. This legal submission was made in October of 2021. In February 2024, the Israeli delegation was blocked entry to African Union meetings in Addis Ababa about the war on Gaza.

The submission demonstrated how Israel’s actions 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.  

ICJP’s legal submission to the African Union outlined how Israel historically and continuously acts in contradiction with the ‘spirit, objectives, and principles’ of the AU Constitutive Act; adherence to which is a requirement for all member and observer states of the AU. ICJP’s legal team also highlighted that 28 of the AU’s 55 Member States raised serious concern with the decision of the AU commission to grant Israel observer status without prior consultation with its membership. 

Israel did not fulfil the criteria to become an observer state to the AU. ICJP’s legal submission demonstrated that Israel acts in contradiction with the AU Constitutive Act. This is evident in its system of persecution and apartheid; it’s illegal settlements and forcible transfers of Palestinians; the blockade against Gaza which has only worsened recently; and the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on Palestinians throughout the history of its occupation of Palestine.  

The process within which Israel was granted observer status was neither transparent nor consultative. Algeria called for removing Israel’s observer status and South African opposition groups called for the resignation of the AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. ICJP re-sent its legal submission to member states during the Summer of 2023 reminding them of the urgency of taking action to revoke Israel’s observer status.  

South Africa brought a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where 52 countries recently presented arguments on Israel illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Israel’s actions have never been consistent with the values of the African Union, and the decision to revoke its membership became even more pressing in light of recent events. The ICJP welcomes the step taken by the African Union Commission to block the Israeli delegations entry to the AU.

Press Release: 

20 February 2024: African Union revoke Israel’s  observer status following three-year-long ICJP campaign 

Media Coverage: 

5 October 2021: African Union: Drop Israel’s observer status, rights groups tell AU leaders