When Politics Prevail Over the Rule of Law: The Demise of the sadc Tribunal

In: International Human Rights Law Review
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  • 1 Professor of the Law of International Organizations, Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of the Aegean, Rhodes, , Greece,
  • | 2 Former University Senior Lecturer in Law, Norwich, , United Kingdom,
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The article questions whether the Tribunal of the Southern Africa Development Community (sadc) ought to have entertained human rights cases given that the sadc Treaty does not endow it with such jurisdiction. It then analyses its demise in 2010, which was prompted by several rulings against Zimbabwe, whose policy of expropriating land without compensation was held to violate human rights. The pertinent aspects of these cases are reviewed, and the significance of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme is explained. The article elucidates why sadc leaders were prepared to suspend the Tribunal’s operation. This was a combination of alarm that it could evolve into a quasi-regional human rights court but also solidarity with the then President Mugabe, a hero of Africa’s liberation struggle. Finally, the pronouncements of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and the High Court of Tanzania on the lawfulness of the sadc Tribunal’s suspension are considered.

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