SADC Tribunal petition

via SADC Tribunal petition – The Zimbabwean 11 May 2015

The leaders of southern Africa are pulling apart a regional court which they put in place to protect the rights of individuals in the region – the Southern Africa Development Community Tribunal (SADC Tribunal).

Taking African governments to court is not easy as national courts are often unwilling or unable to prosecute heads of state or other government officials. The SADC Tribunal provides those whose rights have been violated and abused by governments in southern Africa, a fair and impartial court where they can hold governments accountable and seek redress.

Unfortunately this Tribunal was suspended by the leaders of southern Africa in 2010 and remains suspended to date. Furthermore, for the past six years, these leaders have been engaged in a process aimed at taking away the power of this court to hear human rights cases. Individuals will also no longer be allowed to bring grievances before the Tribunal as it will be limited to hearing disputes between states only. People in southern African countries will therefore be prevented from holding the leaders of these countries accountable at the regional level.

In August 2015, these leaders will be meeting in Botswana for an annual meeting, known as the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government (SADC Summit). We need to send a clear message to them that the people of SADC (i.e. southern African countries) believe that the SADC Tribunal is important and want to maintain it as it is. Add your voice to this call by signing the petition at and sharing it with others.

What is the SADC Tribunal?

The SADC Tribunal is a regional court set up to hear disputes between States in southern Africa. It also has the power to hear disputes between natural persons (i.e. people living in southern Africa) and States in the SADC region; as well as between legal persons (such as businesses) and States. The Tribunal was first envisioned in 1992 and in 2000 SADC leaders signed an agreement, known as the “Protocol on the Tribunal of the Southern Africa Development Community”, establishing it.

The SADC States are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Therefore, if the Tribunal were still functioning, all citizens of these countries and individuals who have a dispute with a government of one of these countries would be able to take a case before the court when the national courts were unable or unwilling to resolve the dispute.

The disputes the Tribunal can hear include human rights complaints. So for example, a person arbitrarily arrested, deprived of their property or possessions, or subjected to torture could take the State responsible for such an act to the regional court. Those who have been detained simply for peacefully expressing their opinion, for example journalists and others in Angola, Swaziland and Botswana, could have taken these governments to the SADC Tribunal.

Why was the Tribunal suspended?

Between 2007 and 2009 the Tribunal heard and decided a number of cases against the Zimbabwean government. In 2009, the government of Zimbabwe challenged the legitimacy of the Tribunal and in August 2010, the leaders of SADC announced that there would be a review of the Tribunal. The Tribunal was suspended pending the review.

An independent review found that the Tribunal was properly constituted with authority under international law to hear individual petitions regarding human rights violations. Despite this, the suspension of the Tribunal was extended for another year and the Ministers of Justice and Attorney Generals of SADC were tasked with conducting another review. In June 2012 the Ministers decided the Tribunal should be changed so that it could no longer hear human rights cases until the adoption of a SADC human rights Protocol. They however, thought individuals should still be able to take other cases not related to human rights before the Tribunal.

The leaders of SADC however, negotiated another protocol removing, not only the human rights mandate, but also the ability of individuals to access the Tribunal.

In August 2014 this new protocol was signed at the SADC Summit by nine leaders of SADC States. Before the Tribunal can be changed, 10 of the SADC countries will have to sign and ratify the new protocol. It has only be signed by nine countries so far and no country has ratified it.

Why is the suspension and possible change to the SADC Tribunal a negative thing?

Leaders of countries have been known to abuse their powers and this abuse can take the form of violation of human rights. National courts are not always independent and impartial. In some cases they are unwilling or unable to take up cases against governments. They may also be unwilling to make a decision against the government for fear of repercussions from the government.

The SADC Tribunal provides an extra layer of protection for human rights. If the new protocol is ratified people in SADC will be deprived of a competent Tribunal for attaining an effective remedy against the violation of their rights when national courts are unwilling or unable to help. Countries in southern Africa have made a number of commitments nationally and internationally to ensure people have access to justice. Instead of improving this right progressively, the leaders are taking a backward step by taking away the powers of the SADC Tribunal to hear human rights cases and cases from individuals.

What can you do to prevent this from happening?

Although the SADC Tribunal has been suspended, it still retains its powers. If the new protocol is not ratified then the Tribunal will continue to exist with the power to hear human rights cases and cases brought by individuals. In most southern African countries parliament has to ratify the protocol. You can help by:

1. Signing this petition thereby adding to the number of people making the southern African leaders aware that the people of SADC value the Tribunal and want it to remain as it is.

2. Writing to your member of parliament raising concern about the proposed changes to the SADC Tribunal, that these changes constitute a retrogressive step in the right of access to justice, and calling on them not to ratify the new SADC Protocol, which removes the human rights jurisdiction and individual access to the Tribunal.

3. Sharing this information and the petition with your contacts, particularly those in southern Africa.


  • comment-avatar
    Petal 7 years ago

    Please can we have an online petition and not only for us to write to our Member of Parliament. The diaspora should also have the opportunity to sign the petition via an organisation or civil society including those organisations that are assisting migrants refugees .

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    LOL, The Dictators Club NOT like the Rule of Law. In fact, they are violently allergic to justice

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    The SADC Tribunal was and remain an instrument created for the region by proxy for the continuous control of the region by Whites. SADC does not need a warped organization hence the leadership is dismantling the white effigy and replace it with a truly African institution.

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    Garikayi 7 years ago

    These Southern African leaders are a gang of mafia..they and their children have developed a ”bond” of comradeship to such an extent that they are laws unto themselves.. We need a new regional order led by a new generation of leaders not the likes of Mugabe, Frelimo handers on etc

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    Petal 7 years ago

    This is what is stated on the website “The SADC Tribunal ensures adherence to, and proper interpretation of the provisions of, the SADC Treaty and subsidiary instruments, and adjudicates upon disputes referred to it. It was established by the Protocol on the Tribunal, which was signed in Windhoek, Namibia during the 2000 Ordinary Summit, and was officially established on 18 August, 2005 in Gaborone, Botswana. The inauguration of the tribunal and the swearing in of members took place on 18 November, 2005 in Windhoek, Namibia where it is based. It consists of appointed judges from Member States.

    After several judgements ruling against the Zimbabwean government, the Tribunal was de facto suspended at the 2010 SADC Summit. On 17 August 2012 in Maputo, Mozambique, the SADC Summit addressed the issue of the suspended SADC Tribunal. The SADC Summit resolved that a new Tribunal should be negotiated and that its mandate should be confined to interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States.”

    The Tribunal was de facto suspended at the 2010 Sadc Summit then in 2012 in Maputo it was resolved that a new Tribunal should be negotiated ans that is mandate should be confined to interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States” do remember reading an article a very very long while back that the judges in Botswana were not happy that the Tribunal had been suspended

    It is should not be just confined to disputes between Member states it must also include prosecution of those who are looting and failing their people. This is the SOuthern African Dictators Club Tribunal that some of the commercial farmers took their case to . The Human Rights Organisations should have a say in how the Tribunal is set up

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    Petal 7 years ago

    There is a website called
    Sadc Lawyers Association and the following is their objectives:-

    Maintain and promote the Rule of Law throughout the SADC Region and to promote human rights, including the rights of people with disabilities, women and children;
    Work with, support and complement the work of the African Bar Association, The Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association and other international organisations with similar objectives;
    Ensure that the people of Region are served by an independent and efficient legal profession;
    Ensure that a common bond of co-operation within the Region is preserved and fostered by strengthening of professional links between members of the legal profession and to enhance their interests;
    Promote the honour, integrity of the profession and uniformity in standards of professional ethics;
    Encourage the improvement of standards of legal education and the promotion of exchange of legal expertise and institute exchange programmes for lawyers and students;
    Encourage the harmonization of the legal system of the Region;
    Facilitate and increase the flow of professional information between Law Societies and Bar;
    Associations of the Region on developments relevant to the organisation and servicing of the practicing legal profession;
    Hold regular Regional Law Conferences, open to all branches of the legal profession throughout the Region, and promote as wide an attendance thereat as is practicable;
    Respond as appropriate to ad hoc requests for information and assistance received from Law Societies and Bar Associations within the Region;
    Provide support for Law Societies, Bar Associations and other appropriate organisations and legal professional associations concerned with matters of common interest;
    Generally to do all that is necessary to further the interests of the legal profession throughout the Region with a view to improving the legal services available to and provided for the public; and
    To facilitate conflict resolution amongst countries, organisations and individuals within the Region by way of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution.

    Probably this association could be asking people to send a petition through them??-

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    i am signing the petition.

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    Petal 7 years ago

    It seems the website if offline – could we have another version please zimbabwe situation of this petition?

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    Petal 7 years ago

    This is another example of alot waffle and no action for the ordinary people this time from the All Useless (AU)Club Website:-
    “the African Union Commission presents its compliments to the ministers of foreign affairs/External relations of all member states and has the honour and then it quotes BC/OCL/66/341-15, BC/OCL/66507 is dated 3031 March 2015 respectively copy attached relating to elections of three members of the African Commission on Human Rights ACHPR to be conducted during the 27th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council scheduled for Johannesburg South Africa in June 2015”

    To cut a long story short there is no action on Human Rights like the Sadc Tribunal that no longer exists just alot of empty talk from these dictators who waste the taxpayers money jetsetting so watch out for the Executive Council scheduled for June 2015 -bet you the geriatric will make his appearance

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    Mafirakurewa 7 years ago

    They said the International Criminal Court of Justice is racist. Now what’s wrong with the SADC Tribunal. What a bunch of clowns. In all cases, the problem is JUSTICE.

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    Petal 7 years ago

    Looked on the Sadc Lawyers Association website the petition is nowhere to be found – these guys should have the petiton on the website