Wednesday July 18, 2018
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Honourable Ministers of Justice and Attorneys-General from

SADC countries

Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena L. Tax, SADC Executive Secretary

Senior Legal Officials of SADC member states

SADC Secretariat

Distinguished delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my honour, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to welcome you all to this Meeting of SADC Ministers of Justice and Attorney-Generals.  And, indeed, a very warm welcome to the Kingdom of Swaziland. 

As this very special year of His Majesty King Mswati III’s  chairmanship of SADC comes to an end, it is again a privilege for  His Majesty’s Government and the people of Swaziland to be hosting a meeting of such eminent representatives of SADC member states.  While it has clearly been a very busy year for Swaziland as host to many SADC Ministerial meetings, the Ministers of Justice have, themselves, met on a number of occasions.  There is clearly much work to be done.

The measure of success in meetings is a visible consensus, combined with evidence of delivery, or commitment to imminent delivery, in the identified key result areas.  Your Agenda for this Committee of Ministers appears to address that thoroughly with regard to a number of important issues. I am sure your officials will have applied themselves assiduously to facilitate Ministerial decisions on the key agenda items.   

The cooperation framework of SADC clearly relies on the existence of legal instruments that capture all dimensions of an international working partnership. The instruments should underpin conceptual harmony and agreed strategy, ensuring fairness and consistency in the march towards comprehensive regional integration that, ideally, is a win-win for all member states.

The SADC Treaty itself, and all the protocols and treaties that formalize the operating relationship, are legal instruments.  It has been judged necessary at this stage, in the face of many legal agreements requiring signature, to set out a background note on the adoption and entry into force of SADC legal instruments, and the multi-staged process involved.  This is being presented for the Honourable Ministers’ consideration.

The corollary of this formalization of operating agreements is the extent to which, in the pursuit of the SADC Common Agenda, SADC legal instruments should, or should not, require ratification by member states.  This clearly relates to which of the Common Agenda are areas of retained sovereignty and which are not. We trust that the Committee of Honourable Ministers will today make the necessary decisions for SADC to move forward on these matters.  

No country in the world is free of crime or, in reasonable circumstances, could ever be entirely free of crime.  But we can still retain that objective in our sights.  But keeping the bar high, so to speak, requires collaboration.  And nowhere is collaboration more productive – indeed, essential - than in the tackling of crime.  The physical porosity of borders is only one of the impediments that can cause a criminal to be arrested in a country other than where the crime was committed.  The pace of innovation in telecommunications does wonders for so many areas of human existence but it can also help facilitate criminal activity in a way that ignores all borders.  Ease of extradition thus takes on an increasingly important perspective.  For the SADC Protocol on Extradition to create an enabling environment for the Committee of Ministers to exercise its responsibilities under the Protocol, a draft agreement to make the required amendments is before you today.

There are many aspects to the successful tackling of crime in a collaborative manner within a region of member states.  The Protocol on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters focuses on coordination of policies, programmes and projects relating to mutual legal assistance.  But it lacks provisions that create an enabling environment for the Committee of Ministers, and as with the Protocol on Extradition, a draft agreement to make the required amendments is for your consideration at this meeting.

In relation to both of these Protocols there is a draft programme of action to be reviewed by Honourable Ministers today.

As important as these tasks, is the need for the establishment of follow up mechanisms, as some of the amendments seek to do. The Senior Officials, together with the Legal Affairs Unit from the Secretariat, are to be commended for coming up with a programme of action to operationalize the institutional responsibilities which come with the proposed amendments.

You are also dealing today with the nomination of seven judges, suitably qualified and experienced, with no two judges from the same member state.  You have the rules and processes to be followed as defined by the Statute, the criteria for selection of judges set out in the Guidelines, and you will be satisfied that the procedures have been followed by member states in the respective nominations submitted to this SADC meeting.

Honourable Ministers, you have a very full programme of work ahead of you so, in the interest of time, I will conclude by urging you, especially on the subject of money laundering and the financing of terrorism, to address closely the issue of harmonization of policies, national laws and, where necessary, the drafting of new legal instruments so that member states can share productively all information.

Furthermore, all decent people – and the vast majority of our respective peoples do fit into that category – abhor the abduction of children.  Sadly, however, it is taking place in numbers where the  reality is invariably greater than what is reported or discovered.  For member states to collaborate effectively, and your Committee of Ministers to maximize the prevention and detection of such criminal activity, there is a need for a situational analysis of child abduction in the SADC region.  Honourable Ministers will be asked to approve the request to the Committee of SADC Ministers responsible for Gender and Women’s Affairs to conduct such a study and share the outcome.

It remains for me, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government to wish you the most fruitful of deliberations.

Thank you.


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