Southern Africa’s Justice ministers and Attorneys-General are meeting in Angola to review the role, functions and terms of the Sadc Tribunal following its suspension in 2010, and have been urged to uphold recommendations of the retention of the regional court and ensure it is allowed to function again.
The meeting, which ends on Friday, is expected to table its recommendations at the Sadc Summit in July this year.
In a statement on Monday, Southern Africa Development Community Lawyers’ Association executive director Makanatsa Makonese said three legal bodies submitted a joint communiqué to the ministers to implore them to allow the tribunal to carry out its core mandate.
The other bodies are the International Commission of Jurisdiction (ICJ) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
The Tribunal’s operations were suspended in August 2010 following protests by Zimbabwe which accused the appeal court of interfering in its internal affairs.
“Sadc Ministers of Justice must defend the Tribunal because they have a duty to promote the rule of law in the region for the good of all our citizens,” Makonese said.
“An effective Tribunal will be a huge boost to the region — by helping to protect human rights, promote trade and support economic integration.”
Makonese said their submission demonstrated how removing individual access and its human rights jurisdiction would leave the Sadc Tribunal fatally weakened and totally out of step with similar courts from other regions.
“A Sadc Tribunal divested of individual access and a human rights mandate would be fundamentally out of sync with other African regional adjudicative bodies. It would also set back the African Union’s objective of achieving an African Economic Community which entails co-ordination among the regional economic communities.”
ICJ Africa executive director Arnold Tsunga added: “The argument that the Tribunal usurps the functions and authority of national courts is wrong. The Tribunal is an international court interpreting and applying Sadc community law voluntarily adopted by Sadc states and it does not hear direct appeals from domestic courts which apply municipal law.”