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Monday, December 29, 2008

International Tribunal Rules For Zimbabwe Farmers on Land Expropriation

The New York Times has an interesting story on an international tribunal's condemnation of Zimbabwe's confiscation of white farmers' property:

Mr. Etheredge this year became one of dozens of white farmers to challenge the government’s right to confiscate their land, and they sought relief in an unusual place: a tribunal of African judges established by the 15 nations of the Southern African Development Community regional trade bloc. . . .

On Nov. 28, the farmers gathered in Windhoek, Namibia, to hear the final ruling of five judges of the S.A.D.C. tribunal. As Justice Luis Antonio Mondlane of Mozambique read the full 60-page decision aloud, it dawned on the farmers that they had won.

The tribunal found that the government had breached its obligations under the trade bloc’s treaty, which committed it to respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, by denying the farmers compensation for their farms and court review of the government’s confiscation of them.

More broadly, it rejected the government’s claim that the land redistribution program was meant to right the wrongs of a colonial era when a white minority ruled what was then Rhodesia. Instead, the court found that the government had itself racially discriminated against the white farmers.

In a stinging rebuke, the tribunal, citing an earlier legal case, said it would have reached a different conclusion had the government not awarded “the spoils of expropriation primarily to ruling party adherents.”

The usually stoic farmers wept. “We burst into tears, the whole lot of us,” Mr. Freeth said.

The reaction of the government was defiant. Didymus Mutasa, the minister who oversees the distribution of seized land, told the state media that the judges were “daydreaming” if they thought Zimbabwe would heed the ruling.

I poked around online trying to find a copy of the Court's opinion.  If anyone knows where to find it, I'd appreciate a pointer.

UPDATE:  The opinion is available here.

Ben Barros

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http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/property/2008/12/international-t.html

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Comments

Hi Ben:

I assume the decision will eventually be posted here:http://www.saflii.org/sa/cases/SADCT/

All the best for the New Year.

Dan

Posted by: Dan Cole | Jan 5, 2009 6:32:42 AM

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