The future of the SADC Tribunal…

Today we have uploaded a copy of a Press Statement released after the recently held SADC Heads of State Summit:

The Botswana Civil Society Solidarity Coalition for Zimbabwe (BOCISCOZ) wishes to express its disappointment with the decision of the 32nd SADC (Southern African Development Community) Summit of Heads of State and Government concerning the future mandate of the SADC Tribunal.

In its final communiqué of 18th August 2012, the Summit stated that “a new Protocol on the Tribunal should be negotiated and its mandate confined to interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States.” This, effectively, eliminates the right of southern African citizens to seek justice before the SADC Tribunal, once they have exhausted all national remedies – a right granted to them by the Tribunal Protocol of the SADC Treaty.

This is the latest development in a disturbing process which began with the Tribunal being suspended at the SADC Summit of August 2010, following intense lobbying by the Government of Zimbabwe, which was unhappy with previous findings of the Tribunal. In particular, it was opposed to the SADC Tribunal’s decision on the illegality of certain aspects of Zimbabwe’s ‘fast track land reform’. The Tribunal’s suspension was extended in May 2011 to August 2012.

BOCISCOZ also notes with concern,  that in deciding to eliminate the individual citizen’s right to take legal issues to the SADC Tribunal, the SADC not only ignores calls put forward by the region’s civil society – exemplified by the statement of OSISA (Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa) from 21st August 2012 – , but also disregards the legal advice of three reputable legal bodies, namely the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA). The Summit’s decision creates what amounts to a legal vacuum for human rights protection at the sub-regional level. This is in direct breach of the SADC Treaty, as well as earlier international legislation on the protection of human rights. BOCISCOZ wishes to express its serious concern about the possible implications which this decision might have on the set principles, which were agreed on in the SADC Treaty Article 4C of “human rights, democracy and the rule of law.”

BOCISCOZ calls upon His Excellency, Lt. General, Seretse Khama Ian Khama and other SADC leaders, to reinstate the Tribunal, with the mandate originally given to it in the Protocol of the SADC Treaty. This will ensure the maintenance of accountability, the rule of law, and the individual citizen’s right to have access to fair and transparent courts.


28 August 2012


A recently produced 10 minute documentary about the SADC Tribunal and its significance is narrated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and may be viewed on For more information please contact: DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights. Tel: 00 267 3906998 Fax: 00 267 3907778.  Cell: 00 267 71309468. Email: Website: