PostHeaderIcon Sub-regional Courts & Mechanisms

PostHeaderIcon SADC Tribunal

The SADC Tribunal, established through a Protocol adopted on 7 August 2000, was created to consider disputes between states and SADC, individuals, organisations or institutions and SADC, and staff of the SADC Secretariat and the Community.

The Council of Ministers determines the budget of the Tribunal.

The Court can hear matters arising from the SADC Treaty, the Protocol establishing the Tribunal, all Protocols that form part of the Treaty and instruments adopted by the Summit, the Council and any institution and organ of the Community. It can also give advisory opinions upon the request of the SADC Heads of State and Government and the Council of Ministers. Complainants can file cases in the working languages of the SADC – English, French and Portuguese.

Parties taking cases to the Tribunal must exhaust local remedies first or must show that local remedies are not available.

Decisions of the Tribunal are final and binding.

The Court has ten members, of whom five are “regular” members who will sit on the Tribunal in most cases. Should one of them be unavailable, the president of the Court may invite a member from the pool of members to serve on the Tribunal. The judges serve a five-year term, which is renewable.

SADC Tribunal Seat: Windhoek, Namibia.

States Subject to SADC Tribunal Jurisdiction: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


PostHeaderIcon SADC leaders deal fatal blow to SADC Tribunal

Johannesburg, 20th August – Leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) took a momentous decision in Maputo over the weekend – to shut the doors of the SADC Tribunal to the region’s citizens, preventing them from seeking justice and undermining the rule of law.

The shocking decision, which was taken at the annual summit of SADC Heads of State and Government in Maputo, not only left the Tribunal in limbo but also rendered it completely toothless by denying individual access to the court.

"The decision to deny the region's inhabitants any access to the Tribunal is astounding and entirely without any lawful basis," said Nicole Fritz, Director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). "Civil society groups were worried that SADC leaders would conspire to weaken the Tribunal but this is far worse than we had feared. SADC has destroyed it."

The summit's final communique explains that SADC leaders have "resolved that a new Protocol on the Tribunal should be negotiated and its mandate confined to interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States."

The original Tribunal Protocol made it clear that individuals also had access to the court – and all previous cases heard by the Tribunal had been brought by individuals.

"The decision flies in the face of the recommendations of both the SADC-instituted review of the Tribunal and SADC's own Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General," said Fritz. "It is also completely at odds with the best practice of other regional institutions and undermines the protection of human rights and hopes for future economic growth and development."

The SADC Tribunal has been defunct for the past 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 Tribunal immediately and to ensure that in future it will be little more than a shell.

Our leaders have shown their contempt for all of us in southern Africa and for the rule of law,” said Fritz. “Not only did they deny the region’s citizens access to the Tribunal but Member States almost never bring legal cases against each other so the court will be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.”

For more information, please contact:
Nicole Fritz, SALC Director; Off +27 11 587 5065; Cell +27 82 600 1028
Richard Lee, OSISA Communications Manager; Cell +27 83 2314192; [ This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ]


PostHeaderIcon NGOs urge SADC Ministers to safeguard Tribunal

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Southern African Development Community Lawyers Association (SADC LA) urged Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to safeguard the SADC Tribunal and the rule of law in the region as they meet in Luanda from 11 to 15 June 2012 to determine the future of the SADC Tribunal.

The three legal bodies met with a number of Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General from SADC member States ahead of their meeting to request them to preserve the rule of law by particularly ensuring that access to the SADC Tribunal by private persons is retained and that its human rights mandate is strengthened rather than scrapped.


co-hosted by International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) & SADC Lawyers’ Association (SADC LA), Kopanong Hotel & Conference Centre, Benoni, South Africa, 28 July 2011. 

Communiqué: Extraordinary Summit, Heads of State and Government of the Southern Africa Development Community, Windhoek, Republic of Namibia, 20 May 2011

Implications of the decision to review the role, functions and terms of reference of the SADC Tribunal: an opinion ( - 297 kb)
Author: The Southern Africa Litigation Centre; Ditshwanelo, The Botswana Centre for Human Rights
Date Published: s.d.
Published by: Unpublished



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