A call for a Regional Court of Justice to guarantee to all, citizens and peoples, without fear or favour, access to justice and protection of their human rights.
We, as SADC citizens and civil society organisations call on our leaders to Act now, to immediately agree to the establishment of a regional court of justice.We call on the leaders to establish a Regional Court of Justice after the suspension of the SADC Tribunal without any say from citizens.
The purpose of the Tribunal was to strengthen democratic governance, human rights, the rule of law and adherence to the principles of separation of powers. The SADC Tribunal was suspended in August 2010 pending a review of its role, responsibilities and the Terms of Reference by an independent consultant. The SADC Summit decided in August 2012 to make the Tribunal an interstate Court only, (leaving only a narrow field of access) thus denying individual access.
The decision taken by the SADC Heads of State gave rise to grave concerns about the development and protection of human rights and rule of law. Having taken the unprecedented step of establishing the Tribunal, its effective suspension and now virtual dissolution is a clear sign that the Heads of State in SADC have clear preference for the Law of Rulers rather than a genuine commitment to the Rule of Law.
The implications of this decision are clear:
The decision and actions of the Heads of State on the SADC Tribunal rudely reminds the citizens that a handful of men can take at the stroke of a pen remove institutions designed to protect ordinary people. It proves that Member States regard themselves as final arbiters and resoundingly reject the separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive and in effect the legislature.
It is in this light that civil society and the people stand up to mobilise opinion in support of the establishment of a Regional Court of Justice. The Regional Court of Justice will be a step toward people having access to judicial recourse within our own borders which are institutionally and constitutionally protected.
We demand only what is ours as human beings, as Africans- free and unfettered freedom governed by the social contract defined by law, by the separation of powers- fairness in all things and at all times. A Parliament of the people with a Regional Court of Justice is a fitting outcome to guarantee a well-governed and accountable SADC for an effective regional integration and people-centred development.
The SADC Tribunal was established through a Protocol adopted on 7 August 2000, to consider disputes between states and SADC, individuals, organisations or institutions and SADC, and staff of the SADC Secretariat and the Community. In August 2012 SADC leaders at the annual summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Maputo took the decision to disband the SADC Tribunal, a move that instantly undermined the regional rule of law.
A Joint Statement of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA) and Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) at the conclusion of the 32nd SADC Summit expressed deepest disappointment at the decision:
“Access to justice is recognised as a fundamental human right in SADC states’ domestic constitutions, as well as in regional and international instruments… Access to justice is a key component of good governance and adherence to the rule of law and promotes development, responsible investment, economic and social reform and safeguards the protection of human and peoples’ rights as guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other regional and international instruments. The creation of strong, independent and accessible courts that enable participation by citizens is key to economic growth and poverty reduction.”