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PostHeaderIcon Democratic Party Petitions the East Africa Court of Justice

The Democratic Party a Ugandan political party has petitioned the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). It is a matter against the Attorney Generals of Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda and the Secretary General to the Community that seeks to enforce the Depositing of a Declaration giving a direct access to Court by individuals and NGOs with observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to petition the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, as provided by Article 34 (6) of the Protocol to the Charter Establishing that Court. (Case Ref No. 2 of 2012).

The petitioner essentially argues that the acts of the respondents of failure or refusal and or delay to make respect declarations to accept competence of the African Court is an infringement of Articles 5, 6, 7(2), 8(1)C, 126 and 130 of the Treaty Establishing the East African Community and Articles 1,2,7,13,26,62,63,65 and 66 of the African Charter.

The first scheduling conference between both parties was held on 1st February 2013 at the EACJ in Arusha, Tanzania.

 

PostHeaderIcon DITSHWANELO receives human rights award

One of the Coalition's member organisations, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights (DITSHWANELO),  was honored on Monday 10 December 2012 with the Human Rights Prize 2012 of the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme (CNCDH) of the French Republic. Access the full article here

 

PostHeaderIcon African Court asked to rule on legality of SADC Tribunal's suspension

Johannesburg, 26 November 2012 - In a landmark legal request, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights has been asked to use its advisory powers to determine whether the suspension of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal by the region’s leaders was legal or not.

The request for an advisory opinion was lodged by the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) at the Court in the Tanzanian city of Arusha on Friday, 23 November.

PALU and SALC maintain that the decisions taken by SADC Heads of State and Government to suspend the SADC Tribunal were unlawful since they violate judicial independence, access to justice, the right to effective remedies and the rule of law.

“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,” said Nicole Fritz, Executive Director of SALC. “Without the Tribunal, most of the region’s inhabitants – who cannot access credible domestic courts – have no real prospect of securing justice and redress.”

If the Court rules that the suspension was illegal, it will be a definitive legal determination of the lawfulness of the SADC Summit’s actions – a ruling that SADC will find difficult to ignore given that it is required to coordinate its policies and programmes with those of the African Union (AU).

“The Courts of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as the SADC Tribunal, are crucial in guaranteeing cross-border and inter-regional business and trade investment, and just rule of law in which the rights of individuals, businesses, groups and Member States are equally protected,” said Don Deya, Chief Executive Officer of PALU. “Our request for an advisory opinion is part of an initiative by African civil society to realise independent, empowered, effective and efficient REC Courts all over the continent.”

In their request for an advisory opinion, PALU and SALC have asked the African Court to determine whether:
• The decision by the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government to suspend the SADC Tribunal and not to reappoint or replace members of the Tribunal whose terms had expired is consistent with the African Charter, the SADC Treaty, the SADC Tribunal Protocol and general principles of the rule of law;
• The decisions of the SADC Summits of August 2010 and May 2011 violate the institutional independence of the Tribunal and the personal independence of its judges as provided for in the African Charter and the UN Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary;
• SADC’s 18 August 2012 decision violates the right of access to justice and effective remedies as guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples, the SADC Tribunal Protocol and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law; and,
• The decision making processes undertaken in the review of the SADC Tribunal jurisdiction are in compliance with the SADC Treaty.

The request for an advisory opinion has been supported by a number of other prominent regional civil society organisations, including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA).

“Regional civil society has waged a tireless advocacy campaign to save the SADC Tribunal but despite our best efforts to engage with member states and highlight their legal obligations, SADC leaders persisted in dismantling the Tribunal,” said Arnold Tsunga, Executive Director of the ICJ Africa Programme. “The African Court provides another chance to convince them to change their policies and resurrect the Tribunal for the good of all southern Africans.”

It is a view echoed by Kondwa Sakala Chibiya, President of the SADC LA. “Obviously we would have preferred SADC to have resolved this issue on its own and for us not to have been forced to approach the African Court,” she said. “But after SADC ignored the recommendations of the legal advisors it had appointed and its own ministers of justice and attorneys general, there was no other option.”

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

Despite a campaign spearheaded by legal bodies, civil society organisations and individuals such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, SADC’s leaders decided not to the revive the original Tribunal at their Summit in August 2012.

Instead, they opted to destroy it, resolving that a protocol for a new Tribunal would be negotiated and that the new Tribunal’s mandate would be limited only to adjudication of member states’ disputes. The new Tribunal – shorn of a human rights mandate and with all access by individuals, companies or organisations denied – will be little more than a shell.

For further information contact:
Donald Deya, CEO of PALU +255 787 066 888
Nicole Fritz, Executive Director, SALC – Tel: +27 82 600 1028; Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Arnold Tsunga, Executive Director of ICJ Africa Programme – Tel: +27 73 131 8411
Makanatsa Makonese, Executive Secretary of SADC LA – Tel: +27 72 571 4247

 

PostHeaderIcon Dlamini-Zuma new AU Commission chairperson

Arusha 20:00 GMT - The AU Summit elected Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the new African Union Commission chairperson on 15 July 2012. Dlamini-Zuma and the incumbent Jean Ping were candidates for the post which was not filled during first round of elections in the January 2012 AU Summit.

 
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