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Alex Haines instructed in case before the African Union Administrative Tribunal

Alex Haines has recently been instructed in a case before the African Union (“AU”) Administrative Tribunal which is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The roles and structure of African International Organisations are often misunderstood. This article clarifies some of these distinctions.

The African Union

The AU is a continental union and regional organisation – equivalent to the European Union – consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African continent. In 2001, the AU was created to replace the Organisation of African Unity (“OAU”) and it was officially launched in 2002. The evolution of this institution was the outcome of a consensus by African leaders that there was a need to refocus attention from the fight for decolonisation and ridding the continent of apartheid (i.e., the OAU’s focus) towards increased cooperation and integration of African states to drive Africa’s growth and economic development. The AU represents just over 1 billion people.

The African Union Commission

The AU’s Secretariat is the AU Commission which acts as its executive and administrative branch. It is the key organ playing a central role in the day-to-day management of the AU, representing and defending its interests. The AU Commission’s Commonwealth equivalent is the Commonwealth Secretariat based in London. The AU Commission is separate from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, a body based in Gambia that reports to the AU. The AU Commission is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The African Union Administrative Tribunal

The AU’s Administrative Tribunal – not to be confused with the AU’s Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights – is the AU’s judicial body established to settle disputes between the AU and its employees on employment and institutional matters. It was set up in 1967 (at the time of the OAU) and its judges are nominated by member states and appointed by the Executive Council of the AU for a term of four years. Three new judges were sworn in on 16 July 2019.

International Administrative Tribunals generally exist in the realm of the public international law system. Most international organisations have provided for some sort of internal justice mechanism to address institutional disputes resulting in dozens of International Administrative Tribunals including the three most established: the World Bank Administrative Tribunal, the United Nations Appeals Tribunal and the International Labour Organisation Administrative Tribunal. In the EU, the General Court is the equivalent International Administrative Tribunal for disputes arising out of administrative decisions taken by European Institutions. On the African continent, the African Development Bank Administrative Tribunal in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is the most prominent International Administrative Tribunal.

The Court of Justice of the African Union

The Court of Justice of the AU was originally intended to be the principal judicial organ of the AU with authority to rule on disputes over interpretation of AU treaties. The Court, however, never came into existence because the AU decided that it would be merged with the African Court on Human and People’s Rights which is based in Arusha, Tanzania. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights therefore came into being in 2004, merging both previous courts.

The Outer Temple Chambers International Team

Over the past 12 months, barristers at Outer Temple Chambers have been instructed in cases involving more than 10 international organisations worldwide including:

  • The United Nations;
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (“EBRD”);
  • The Pan American Health Organisation (“PAHO”);
  • The European Investment Bank (“EIB”);
  • The International Maritime Organisation (“IMO”);
  • The International Monetary Fund (“IMF”);
  • The Inter-American Development Bank (“IADB”);
  • The European Patent Office (“EPO”);
  • The International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”);
  • The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (“BSTDB”)
  • The UN Children’s Fund (“UNICEF”);
  • The African Union; and
  • The UN Support Office in Somalia (“UNSOS”).

OTC’s International Organisations Law practice includes the following disciplines: litigation and advocacy before international administrative tribunals and other courts such as the EU General Court; international arbitration; advisory work, investigative work; and training.

Beyond the domestic courts and tribunals of England and Wales, OTC barristers have, in last year, worked in a number of different cities including Vienna, Geneva, Bangkok, Kingston, New York, Thessaloniki, Munich, Managua and Panama City.

International Organisations are established by treaty and possess their own international legal personalities. They also enjoy immunity from suit and – through the application of inter alia international human rights law – most have set up internal justice systems that deal with institutional matters. 2019 is a particularly interesting year for immunity of international organisations following the US Supreme Court case of Jam v International Finance Corporation in which the International Organizations Immunity Act was interpreted in a manner that meant that organisations have the same level of immunity from lawsuits granted to foreign governments.

OTC’s practice in International Organisations Law includes the following areas: international employment law, representation of whistleblowers, international regulatory and disciplinary law, sanctions law (i.e., on behalf of the UN or the EU); investigation into fraud and corruption on behalf of international organisations and debarment by Multilateral Development Banks such as the World Bank Group.

For any queries about the International Team, please contact David Smith (+44 (0)20 7427 4905).

News 18 Nov, 2019


Alex Haines

Call: 2007 (England & Wales); 2019 (New York); and 2020 (Ireland)

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