COURT DECLARES SIERRA LEONE GOVERNMENT LIABLE FOR RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

The ECOWAS Court has ordered the government of Sierra Leone to pay 10,000 dollars in compensation to its citizen for its failure to investigate and prosecute the culprit in a complaint filed by the citizen who was allegedly raped by a paramount ruler during a raid by a secret society led by the ruler.

Delivering judgment in the suit filed by Ms. Adama Vandi, the Judge Rapporteur for the suit, Justice  Januaria Costa said that the compensation is for damages arising from the violation of her rights by the government of Sierra Leone, mainly her rights to remedy and access to justice, right to human dignity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

The Court however, which delivered the judgment on 13th July 2022, dismissed all other reliefs sought by Ms Vandi and ordered both parties to bear their costs.

The suit ECW/CCJ/APP/52/21 was filed before the Court on 2nd September, 2020 by Ms Vandi’s lawyers – Mr Gaye Sowe, Edmund Foley and Oludayo Fagbemi from the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) who submitted that her fundamental rights were violated by the government of Sierra Leone.

Relying on various Articles of the African Charter on human and Peoples’ Rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Vandi’s lawyers alleged the government of Sierra Leone violated her rights to remedy and access to justice, right to freedom from gender-based discrimination, right to human dignity and freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Her lawyers told the Court that she was raped by a paramount ruler during a raid by the secret society group led by the paramount ruler and that subsequent attempts to get justice were frustrated because of the political power of the alleged perpetrator.

She urged the Court to hold the Sierra Leonean government liable for its failure to conduct an effective investigation and prosecute the perpetrator/culprit.

Among the declarations sought from the Court were a declaration that her rights were violated by the government;  an order for the payment by the government of the sum of 100,000 USD as compensation and an order compelling the government to put in place measures to ensure the protection, punishment and eradication of all forms of sexual violence against women.

On 3rd December 2021, the lawyers filed another application before the Court asking for judgment to be delivered after the failure of the government to file its response within the legal time frame or respond to the notices/applications served on the government.

The Court however held that the allegation of the violation her right to freedom from gender-based discrimination was unfounded since it was not proven that she was denied access to justice because she was a female or treated differently in comparison to others.

The Court awarded 10,000 USD as compensation for damages and also ordered the State to submit to the Court within three months measures taken to implement the judgment of the Court.

The panel for the case included Justices Edward Amoako Asante (presiding), Gberi-Be Ouattara (member) and Januária Costa (judge rapporteur).