Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
A critical meeting of regional civil society organisations is underway in Maputo ahead of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government summit on the 17-18th of August.
Organised by the SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, the Southern Africa Trade Union Co-ordination Council and the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa, the 8th Southern Africa Civil Society Forum will focus on issues that will be on the summit agenda next week.
Under the theme of ‘The SADC We Want', the forum will allow participants to engage with SADC elders, such as former Mozambican President, Joaquim Chissano, senior SADC officials and SADC parliamentarians.
One of the key issues will be the future of the SADC Tribunal since there are growing concerns that SADC leaders will decide to remove the Court’s human rights jurisdiction – which would be a serious blow to the citizens of the region and to hopes for economic growth and development.
The proposal to remove the Tribunal’s critical human rights mandate is contained in a draft amendment to the institution’s Protocol, which was adopted by SADC Ministers of Justice in Angola in June – and is likely to be passed by the summit.
The Ministers of Justice did recommend some progressive provisions in the Protocol – such as allowing private access, guaranteeing judicial independence and setting up an appellate chamber – but these are far outweighed by the negative impact of destroying its ability to adjudicate in human rights matters.
A coalition of legal organisations, including the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the SADC Lawyers Association (SADC LA), have been fighting to save the Tribunal since it was first suspended by SADC leaders back in 2010.
SALC will be giving a presentation at the civil society forum to stress the importance of campaigning to revive the Tribunal and, critically, keep its human rights mandate.