Southern African Development Community Tribunal

by Henok Birhanu Asmelash

This paper was first published as ‘MPILux Working Paper 10 (2017)’. The full and final text is now available online as an entry of the Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law, published by OUP at

Abstract: This entry provides a detailed account of the troubled birth and premature death of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal. SADC Member States formally established the Tribunal in 1993 with a broad jurisdiction as one of the key organs of the SADC. The Tribunal became fully operational only after 12 years, but its lifespan was cut short when it ruled against Zimbabwe and its land reform program in one of its early cases. This entry explores how Zimbabwe (under Robert Mugabe) in cooperation with other SADC Member States dismantled the Tribunal by first refusing to (re)appoint judges and eventually suspending its functions. It also examines the futile efforts to re- establish the Tribunal with limited jurisdiction.