A regional African tribunal has ordered Zimbabwe's government to stop its eviction of a white farmer from his land.

The ruling by the Southern African Development Community draws Zimbabwe's neighbors into Zimbabwe's controversial land redistribution debate.

The three-person tribunal in Namibia's capital, Windhoek, unanimously ruled Thursday in favor of Zimbabwean farmer Mike Campbell.

Campbell had filed an urgent application at the tribunal, saying he had exhausted his legal options in Zimbabwe.

A lawyer for Campbell said his client was asking the court to allow him to stay on his farm until a ruling from Zimbabwe's Supreme Court on the matter.

The regional court said it will also consider the legality of Zimbabwe's program to confiscate white-owned farms in a hearing on January 22.

SADC is a regional grouping of 14 African nations that includes Zimbabwe.

The tribunal was established as a peer review mechanism in the region.

It is not clear if Zimbabwe will respect the tribunal's judgment.

In 2000, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe instituted a land reform policy in which thousands of white-owned commercial farms were seized by the government and turned over to blacks, many of whom had little or no farming experience.

Zimbabwe's agricultural production has plunged since the move, and the country is now facing an economic crisis with the world's highest inflation rate and unemployment at around 80 percent.

Critics blame the situation largely on the government's economic policies, including the land reform policy.

President Mugabe blames the economic problems on British and American sanctions against his government.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.