Southern Africa rights group blasts SADC leaders

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) has accused the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) leaders of undermining the rule of law for shutting the doors of the region’s Tribunal to its citizens.

The decision, which was taken at the annual summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Maputo, Mozambique this week, not only left the Tribunal in limbo but also rendered it completely toothless.

“The decision to deny the region’s inhabitants any access to the Tribunal is astounding and entirely without any lawful basis,” said Nicole Fritz, SALC Director.

 “Civil society groups were worried that SADC leaders would conspire to weaken the Tribunal but this is far worse than we had feared. SADC has destroyed it.”

In May last year, SADC leaders suspended the work of the Tribunal for
another year – ignoring the recommendations of an independent study commissioned by SADC itself, their duty to the citizens of the region
and the devastating impact of this decision on human rights and
peoples’ ability to access justice.

The SADC Tribunal has been inactive for the past two years after SADC
leaders demanded a review of its powers and functions, following a
series of cases in which it had ruled against the Zimbabwean
government.

“The decision flies in the face of the recommendations of both the
SADC-instituted review of the Tribunal and SADC’s own Ministers of
Justice and Attorneys General,” said Fritz. 

“It is also completely at odds with the best practice of other regional institutions and undermines the protection of human rights and hopes for future economic growth and development.”