While civil society is still reeling from SADC’s recent decision to strip southern Africa’s regional court, the SADC Tribunal, of the ability to serve the interests of the region’s citizens, the Supreme Court of Appeal, seemingly unperturbed by recent events, confirmed that judgments of the now-defunct Tribunal are enforceable in South Africa. The SCA confirmed that property belonging to the Zimbabwean government may be attached and sold in execution of a cost order handed down by the SADC Tribunal.

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Next month SADC heads of state and government will convene their annual summit. Key on their agenda is a decision on the SADC Tribunal’s future. The Tribunal has been suspended now for close on two years — a decision taken to thwart the Tribunal’s staking out of a robust human rights jurisdiction. Civil society across the region has campaigned for restoration of the Tribunal. There are indications flowing from the recent meeting of SADC legal advisors that a decision to reinstate the Tribunal will happen in August. The risk however is that the Tribunal’s mandate will be narrowed — that it will not be permitted to entertain human rights cases. That will be a tragedy for the southern Africa region.

We’ve posted a link below to a video produced by dogood films, which documents just what is at stake should the Tribunal’s human rights jurisdiction be cut down. Be warned though, as the footage is often very graphic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iCUlSii6oI

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the Africa Regional Programme of the International Commission of Jurists and the SADC Lawyers’ Association co-hosted a regional legal consultative conference on the 28th of July 2012.

The conference focused on a wide range of topics pertaining to the SADC Tribunal review process and the role of stakeholders in working towards a strengthened sub-regional court. At the conclusion of the meeting a declaration was adopted and 25 advocacy actions were recommended by the participants. The meeting was attended by judges, lawyers and NGO representatives from the SADC region. 

The main objective of the meeting was to analyse the SADC decision on the SADC Tribunal, its implications on fundamental human rights, the rule of law and democracy as well as mapping out strategies for NGOs, lawyers and judges to contribute to the review process. The meeting was designed to raise greater awareness on the recent developments of the review process, and provide an opportunity for better coordination of the efforts of SADC lawyers, judges and rule of law advocates in advocating for a strengthened, effective and independent SADC Tribunal. 

Some of the key topics discussed at the meeting included a critique of the contentious issues to be considered in the review process, an overview of civil society and bar associations’ engagement in the review process, the effects of the SADC decision on the rule of law and human rights in the SADC region and a discussion on strategies for effective advocacy.

It was generally agreed that the SADC decision to suspend the operations of the SADC Tribunal until August 2012 was illegal and that the Summit did not act on the basis of provisions of the Tribunal’s constitutive documents.

Participants agreed to challenge the illegality of the SADC Summit decision through various advocacy strategies which include approaching the African Court for an advisory opinion and engaging the individual SADC Heads of State and Ministers of Justice.

Check out an opinion piece by our own Lloyd Kuveya in the Business Day on the Regional Summit on Zimbabwe.

Check out an interesting article from Business Day on the suspension of the SADC Tribunal.

Today the SADC Heads of State will make the final decision on the role, functions and mandate of the SADC Tribunal after the completion of the review of this international court. The SADC ordered the review of the SADC Tribunal at the 30th Summit in Windhoek in August 2010. After the Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday, 19 May the only contentious issues will be whether the Tribunal should allow private access and whether the judges whose terms expired in October 2010 should be reappointed.

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