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tralac Policy Brief: A new tribunal for SADC, but with limited jurisdiction and fewer powers

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tralac Policy Brief: A new tribunal for SADC, but with limited jurisdiction and fewer powers

tralac Policy Brief: A new tribunal for SADC, but with limited jurisdiction and fewer powers

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At the recent SADC Summit for Heads of State and Government, which took place from 17 to 18 August 2013, in Lilongwe, Malawi, an important decision on the future of the SADC Tribunal was taken. The Tribunal was suspended by a Summit decision in 2010, following its rulings against Zimbabwe involving human rights violations. Zimbabwe participated in the Summit deliberations and decision to suspend the Tribunal.

Since that time no disputes about the application or interpretation of any SADC legal instrument could be settled in a binding and final manner. This impasse might now be resolved, albeit in a manner which will strip the Tribunal of many of its powers.

This important development ushers in a de novo negotiating process and will result in a very different dispute settlement dispensation in SADC. The first point to note is that the Summit has called for inter-state negotiations to adopt the text of the new Protocol for the SADC Tribunal. The negotiations will start with preparatory work that the Ministers of Justice/Attorneys-General of the member states will undertake.

These negotiations will hopefully not be a long and drawn-out process since this matter has seen in depth discussions over the last few years. The requirement of ratification before entry into force may however cause extended delays. The Summit decision states that the new Protocol will have to be ratified by two thirds of the Member States to enter into force. Since national constitutional procedures will then enter the picture, it may be quite some time before SADC sees its new Tribunal. Ratification should therefore be prioritized and should remain on the Summit’s agenda.


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tralac Policy Brief: A new tribunal for SADC, but with limited jurisdiction and fewer powers

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