Southern African Development Community Tribunal

The Southern African Development Community Tribunal was established under of the Treaty of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 1992, but was only inaugurated in November 2005.

Mandate

The SADC Tribunal is currently suspended. The information on this page pertains to the court’s mandate as originally designed and carried out until late 2010.

Charged with ensuring Member States’ compliance with the SADC Treaty and subsidiary instruments, the SADC Tribunal also has competence to hear individual complaints of alleged human rights violations.

From its headquarters in Gaborone, Botswana, SADC promotes further socio-economic cooperation and integration, and political and security cooperation among 15 southern African states, namely: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The SADC Tribunal sits in Windhoek, Namibia and has jurisdiction over disputes among SADC Member States as well as between individuals or corporations and Member States. Article 4 of the SADC treaty requires SADC and its Member States to act in accordance with the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The SADC Tribunal operated according to the Protocol on Tribunal and the Rules of Procedure.

Suspension

The Tribunal has ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear human rights complaints, but its exercise of this competence led to a SADC-ordered review of the Tribunal’s role and functions in 2010, resulting in the suspension of its activity. The SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government agreed in August 2012 to create a new court with a mandate limited strictly to the adjudication of inter-State disputes arising from the SADC Treaty and its protocols, rather than international human rights norms. See SADC, SADC Tribunal. In 2014, nine States signed the revised Protocol on the tribunal, which would explicitly limit the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, but the instrument has not received the ratifications needed for its entry into force, despite the urging of the SADC Summit.

Case Law

Many of the cases brought before the SADC Tribunal involved human rights violations, particularly regarding expropriation of private property by States. In Mike Campbell (Pvt) LTD and Others v. Zimbabwe, Case No. SADC (T) 2/2007, Main Decision of 28 November 2008 (Case no. 2 of 2007), a Zimbabwe national claimed that his basic rights had been violated as a result of the expropriation without compensation of his private property. See also Barry L.T. Gondo and Others v. Zimbabwe, Case No. SADC (T) 05/2008 (Case no. 5 of 2008) 9 December 2010.

Also in Cimexpan v. Tanzania, Case No. SADC (T) 01/2009, 11 June 2010 (Case no. 1 of 2009), the Tribunal considered claims of torture in connection with the applicant’s deportation. The court determined that the applicant had not exhausted legal remedies and that he had failed to substantiate his claims of ill-treatment. In resolving such cases, the SADC Tribunal has looked to common principles of international human rights law, rather than applying one specific human rights treaty.