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SADC Tribunal ruling won't be recognised - Patel
Ben Freeth
January 27, 2010

In the case in the Zimbabwe High Court, Justice Patel delivered judgment yesterday, 26 January. In his judgment he was "more than satisfied" that the SADC Tribunal had been constituted properly and had jurisdiction within the SADC states, including Zimbabwe, although he was "not entirely persuaded" that the Tribunal could "entertain and adjudicate alleged violations of human rights which might be committed by member states against their own nationals."

SADC Tribunal Rights Watch finds it hard to understand the reasoning here where the broad principles of the SADC Treaty on which the Tribunal finds its guiding principles as being "human rights, democracy and the rule of law," are very specific.

Justice Patel goes on to say that despite accepting the Tribunal's rulings, the said individual rulings should be "subject to a consideration of the facts of each individual case." The Constitution of Zimbabwe is quoted which says that "the Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution, that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void."

Justice Patel says it is contrary to public policy in Zimbabwe to go against the Constitution. SADC Tribunal Rights Watch believes that by saying this, he is opening the door wide to allow the Bill of Rights to be trampled by any dictatorship that may spring up to change constitutions in conformity with dictatorial demands of the executive.

The judge goes on to state that the land reform program "is quintessentially a matter of public policy in Zimbabwe, conceived well before the country attained its sovereign independence." He says that "the greater public good must prevail."

Justice Patel concludes by saying that there is an "overwhelmingly negative impact of the Tribunal's decision on domestic law and agrarian reform in Zimbabwe, and not withstanding the international obligations of the Government I am deeply satisfied that the registration and consequent enforcement of that judgment would be fundamentally contrary to the public policy of this country."

He dismissed the matter with no order as to costs.

SADC Tribunal Rights Watch believes that it is a sad day for any country rife with human rights abuse, when a member of the judiciary entrenches the future possibility of human rights abuse.

By dismissing international treaties in favour of laws that fly in the face of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Zimbabwe authorities have brought about the direct suffering of over 2 million farmers and farm workers, most of whom have been left homeless or jobless.

The people of Zimbabwe are now totally dependent on international food aid. The land reform program has resulted in a net de-settlement of people and has brought the vast majority of Zimbabweans into poverty.

Far from being for the "public good," which the judge has evidently deceived himself into writing, the land reform program has indisputably been a programme of violent, forced eviction without compensation and has resulted in the total dereliction of the majority Zimbabwe's commercial agricultural properties.

The judge, in his attempt to legalise a programme of ethnic cleansing, has joined the ranks of other judges under dictatorial regimes such as in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Soviet Union and left Zimbabweans more exposed than ever to further abuse by the Zimbabwe Government.

Ben Freeth
Spokesman for SADC Tribunal Rights Watch
Cell: +263 913 929 138
E-mail: freeth@bsatt.com

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