Lawyers, activists file petition seeking revocation of Israel’s observer status at African Union

Israel was admitted to the African Union (AU) as an observer state in July this year, a decision that came as a shock to several member countries, given Israel’s sustained and ongoing repression of the Palestinian people

September 17, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
A protest calling for the boycott of Israel in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 31, 2019. (Photo: Afro-Palestine Newswire Service)

A group of lawyers, activists and researchers from various countries submitted a petition to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Thursday, September 16, demanding that the African Union (AU) revoke its recent decision to admit Israel as an observer state. Israel was given observer status in July despite its record of human rights abuses and war crimes against Palestinians. The controversial decision had evoked condemnation and protests by several AU members, who alleged that the decision was taken unilaterally. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), consisting of 16 countries, issued a condemnation of the AU’s decision in August.

Parties to the petition include the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), Johannesburg-based think tank Media Review Network (MRN), US-based lawyer Stanley Cohen and South African lawyers Nadeem Mahomed and Shabnam Mayet, as well as other signatories from Belgium, Ireland and the US.

The 200-page petition states that “this complaint is brought against the decision of the African Union taken at the end of July 2021 granting observer status to the State of Israel. The human rights violations committed by Israel are contrary to the spirit and purport of the Charter of the African Union, particularly relating to issues of self-determination and decolonization as Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in violation of its international obligations and multiple UN resolutions.” 

In the past several months, Israel has received widespread international criticism for a series of human rights abuses and violent attacks against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the 11-day aerial bombing campaign in Gaza which killed more than 250 Palestinians, including 67 children. The international community also condemned the violent Israeli raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, which preceded the bombing of Gaza, as well as the repeated attempts by illegal Israeli settlers and security forces to forcibly expel and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

In a statement to Anadolu Agency, executive member of MRN, Iqbal Jassat, said that “whilst we do not seek justice from the African Union on the issue of war crimes against Palestine by Israel, we seek that Israel not be permitted to enjoy freedoms given to it by the African Union in granting it observer status.” Naazim Adam of the PSA was also quoted as saying that “we, as South Africans living in a member state of the AU, deem it our duty to combat and object to the African Union’s decision in granting Israel observer status.”