quinta-feira, 6 de março de 2014

Robert Mugabe: Top African court 'powerless' to reinstate SADC Tribunal

 Imagem da stirringtroubleinternationally.com

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
05 March 2014

The African Commission on Human and People's Rights has said it has no
authority in the fight to fully reinstate the Southern African human
rights Tribunal, which was suspended after ruling against Robert

The Commission decided last year to reject a landmark challenge filed
by Zimbabwean farmers and victims of the Mugabe led land grab
campaign, who cited all 14 Southern African Development Community
(SADC) leaders in its application to have the Tribunal restored. It
was the first time in legal history that a group of heads of state was
cited by individuals as the respondent in an application to an
international body.

The Tribunal was suspended in 2011 by SADC leaders, who chose to
hobble the work of the court rather than take action against Mugabe.
This was after the Tribunal ruled against Mugabe in 2008 in an
historic case that pitted dispossessed Zim commercial farmers against
the now 90 year old despot. The human rights court ruled that Mugabe's
land grab was unlawful and inherently racist, a ruling that ZANU PF
and its leader actively ignored.

SADC leaders then went on to suspend the court and have since
deliberately hamstrung the Tribunal's future, with SADC deciding that
the court will only be allowed to continue its work if individual
access to it is stopped. This means that the court cannot fulfil its
chief mandate, which is to uphold the human rights of all 250 million
SADC citizens.

But despite this grave threat to the human rights of African citizens,
the African Commission has said it is powerless to do anything and has
rejected the challenge filed by Zimbabwean farmers Ben Freeth and Luke
Tembani. The Commission, whose decision was only communicated over the
weekend, criticised SADC for its handling of the Tribunal situation,
but maintained that it cannot do anything further.

Lawyer Willie Spies, who submitted the application on behalf of Freeth
and Tembani, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the Commission's
decision is based on a 'technicality'. He explained that the original
complaint was based on two articles within the African Human Rights
Charter, the guiding text of the Commission, "which state that African
Union member states are not allowed to prevent individuals within
their countries to having access to courts within their territories."

"We said that in 2011, when SADC leaders got together and Robert
Mugabe managed to convince them to suspend the operations of the
Tribunal, those 14 heads of state contravened the African Human Rights
charter," Spies said.

He continued: "But after a process drawn out for over two and a half
years, the Commission has now said that the articles (which the
complaint was based on) say nothing about regional courts. And since
the Tribunal is a regional human rights court, it is not covered by
the (charter)."

Former Chegutu farmer Freeth, who is also the spokesperson of the SADC
Tribunal Rights Watch group, said in a statement that the Commission's
"reasoning that the African Charter does not include within its
protection courts not known at the time the African Union was formed,
cannot be accepted."

"When we are barred by Zimbabwe law to access the Zimbabwe courts or
the Zimbabwe courts fail us, is it not guaranteed by the African
Charter that we should have access to justice? We have to question the
role and purpose of the African Charter and the African Commission on
Human and People's Rights if this fundamental human right is not
guaranteed," said Freeth.

His co-complainant Tembani meanwhile also said in a statement that the
decision by the Commission is "a great injustice for Africans."

"We ask the world and anyone who cares about human rights, justice,
the rule of law and property rights in Africa, to help protect
Africans from this injustice which threatens the development of the
region. The African Union through the African Commission has made me
despair that justice will come - so that Africans can take their
rightful place in our world and stop us from being beggars on our
resource-rich continent," Tembani said.

 Spies meanwhile said the Commission's decision is a major blow to the
efforts to reinstate the Tribunal, a legal fight he said has now
reached the end of the road.

"The problem was created by politicians and the problem will need to
be solved by politicians. It's only a political interference by SADC
leaders, a political change in Zimbabwe and a political solution to
this situation that can resolve the issue. Legally we have come to the
end of the road," Spies said.

To contact this reporter email alex@swradioafrica.com or follow on Twitter

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