African Commission next step


By Ben Freeth

October 2012

If we believe in the rule of law and human rights, we have to do everything possible to use the law and human rights bodies to put pressure on governments that shirk their duty to protect their peoples.  So far, in the journey that Mike Campbell started, we have ended up in numerous courts in Zimbabwe, as well as in the region.  Every court order we have managed to obtain, however, has been disregarded by the Zimbabwe Government!

After the SADC Tribunal Judgment which ruled in our favour, and stated that the farmers (the applicants in the landmark Campbell case) and their farm workers should be protected, a deliberate onslaught against those farmers and farm workers has been mounted.  In fact, what amounted to crimes against humanity were orchestrated on Mike’s Mount Carmel farm, and on many of the other farms.  In the wake of the onslaught, the Mike Campbell Foundation has been involved in trying to help as many of the victims as possible.

After the SADC Tribunal judges found the Zimbabwe Government to be in contempt of the Tribunal on three successive occasions, an all-out campaign was begun by the Zimbabwe Government to discredit it and try to prove that it was improperly set up.  The SADC Heads of State eventually suspended the Tribunal while an independent review commissioned by them took place. 

The review found that the Tribunal had in fact been properly constituted according to the SADC Treaty of 1992, but in 2011 the SADC Heads of State sent the judges packing anyway.  The Judge President commented later that the Heads of State had treated them “like criminals.” These actions were clearly illegal and against the SADC Treaty.

Consequently, Luke Tembani and I, in consultation with our legal team, decided to go ahead and initiate the unprecedented step of taking all 15 Heads of State and their Governments to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.   We have a hearing in October in Benjal in the Gambia – the date has not yet been set.  The Commission may then refer the case to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, where we hope to build pressure to get the SADC Tribunal reinstated.

Through our efforts we have broadened the campaign to re-establish the SADC Tribunal.  Most recently, we gained the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who agreed to narrate a film that we commissioned to demonstrate the need for, and importance of the Tribunal.  At the same time, Archbishop Tutu also agreed to be one of the patrons of the Mike Campbell Foundation.