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35 Hum. Rts. Q. 870 (2013)
The Disbanding of the SADC Tribunal: A Cautionary Tale

handle is hein.journals/hurq35 and id is 890 raw text is: HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY
The Disbanding of the SADC Tribunal:
A Cautionary Tale
Laurie Nathan*
In 2011 the heads of state of the Southern African Development Com-
munity (SADC) disbanded the SADC Tribunal after the regional court held
that the Zimbabwean government's land seizures violated the rule of law.
The disbandment reflects SADC's hierarchy of values, in terms of which
the organization's formal commitment to human rights and a regional legal
order is subordinate to the political imperatives of regime solidarity and
respect for sovereignty. The Tribunal saga demonstrates that the jurisdiction
of regional courts derives not simply from their official mandates but from
an interplay between domestic and regional law and politics.
Many scholars view the adoption of human rights instruments by regional
organizations in Africa as a significant development.' These scholars believe
that these instruments indicate growing acceptance of human rights principles
by African governments and that the instruments will themselves promote
* Laurie Nathan is Extraordinary Professor and Director of the Centre for Mediation in Africa at
the University of Pretoria. The research undertaken for this article was funded by the Konrad
Adenauer Stiftung.
The views expressed herein are solely those of the author.
1. See, e.g., Gavin Cawthra, Collaborative Regional Security and Mutual Defence: SADC in
Comparative Perspective, 35 POUTIKON 159 (2008); Bronwen Manby, The African Union,
NEPAD, and Human Rights: The Missing Agenda, 26 Hum. RTS. Q. 983 (2004); Jeremy
Sarkin, The African Commission on Human and People's Rights and the Future African
Court of justice and Human Rights: Comparative Lessons from the European Court of
Human Rights, 18 SOUTH AFR. J. OF INT'L AFFAIRS 281 (2011).
Human Rights Quarterly 35 (2013) 870-892 C) 2013 by Johns Hopkins University Press

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