AU human rights court criticised over ‘devastating’ SADC Tribunal decision

Ben Freeth and Luke Tembani

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
07 March 2014

The decision by Africa’s top human rights court to allow the deliberate hobbling of the Southern African regional Tribunal has been described as a ‘devastating’ indictment of justice on the continent.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights has rejected a complaint filed by Zimbabwe farmers, who have been fighting to get the regional SADC Tribunal fully reinstated. The human rights court was suspended in 2011 after ruling against Robert Mugabe in 2008 when it declared the land grab campaign unlawful.

The farmers, Ben Freeth and Luke Tembani, both victims of that campaign, cited 14 SADC leaders in its complaint to the Commission. The landmark application was based in part on two articles within the African Charter on human rights, a binding piece of African Union (AU) law, which explicitly state that no AU members can prevent their citizens from accessing justice at national courts.

But the Commission has rejected the application on the technicality that the articles in the Charter refer only to national courts, and not regional courts like the SADC Tribunal.

Freeth told SW Radio Africa on Friday that the Commission’s decision is a “heavy blow” for human rights.

“It is a cop out by the Commission and says that it is ultimately only there to rubber stamp decisions of the EU executive. It has lost huge credibility as a result of this decision,” Freeth said.

He added that there is much speculation about the Commission’s decision being influenced by the AU’s decision to appoint Mugabe to a top position in the AU council last year. That development, which puts Mugabe in line to take over the chairmanship of the AU in 2015, coincided with the Commission’s decision.

“It is an absolute farce when the respondent in a case is ultimately someone determining the outcome of the case. And it is a mockery of justice in Africa,” Freeth said.

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One Responseto “AU human rights court criticised over ‘devastating’ SADC Tribunal decision”

  1. Chimbwido Warvet says:

    Ben Freeth and Luke Tembani should know that a tribunal that is created on any of the continents should serve the political and economic interests of that continent it has been created. This explains why the European Union serves the interests of the people in that part of the world, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation serves the interests of the West, the African Union only serves the interests of the African continent. Likewise, the Southern African Human Rights Tribunal should serve the interests of Sub-Saharan Africa. It can not serve the vested interests of white commercial farmers who had stolen the land from the indigenous people of Zimbabwe or black farmers whose ownership of the land is questionable as that of Luke Tembani. Any tribunal that does not serve the interests of our region does not have a future in the SADC region. It will be unwanted and irrelevant to the needs and aspirations of the region.
    The land question in Zimbabwe is now a closed chapter and there is no going back on this well established principle that land that was stolen from the people of this country by the white settlers will be repossessed by its rightful owners. The African Union and SADC are fully aware of this principle.

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