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African Court to Rule on Legality of SADC Tribunal Suspension

The African Human Rights Court has been asked to rule on the legality of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal’s suspension by regional leaders, in a landmark legal request by the Pan African Lawyers Union and Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

Nicole Fritz, executive director of the centre, said in a statement Monday: “A positive ruling from the African Court is one of the last remaining avenues to securing a revival of the SADC Tribunal and preserving the rule of law in Southern Africa.”

Makanatsa Makonese, executive secretary of the SADC Lawyers Association told VOA Studio 7 that the rights bodies have been left with little option but to seek the advisory opinion of the African Court.

“We are not asking the African Court to resurrect the Tribunal. Basically what we are requesting is for them to give us an opinion on the legality of the action that has been taken by the SADC Heads of State and Government.

“After that opinion has been rendered we will have direction as to how we are supposed to proceed as a region as far as the SADC Tribunal is concerned,” Makonese said.
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The legal bodies lodged the request with the African Court in Tanzanian last Friday.

The Tribunal has been defunct for more than two years after SADC Heads of State and Government demanded a review of its powers and functions, following a series of cases in which it had ruled against the Zimbabwean government.

The SADC leaders decided not to revive the original tribunal at their summit in August, despite a campaign spearheaded by legal and rights bodies who claimed that the suspension is a violation of human rights and the rule of law.