The ECOWAS Court of Justice has fixed 17th May 2023 to deliver the judgement in a suit filed by some Guineans resident in Senegal who alleged their exclusion by the Republic of Guinea from participating in the country’s last elections.

Justice Edward Amoako Asante, president of ECOWAS Court who presided over the case fixed the judgement following the first hearing of the suit held on Monday 13th February 2023.

During the hearing, Counsel of the Applicants, Mr. Abdoul Yaya Drame complained that the Applicants were deliberately excluded from the elections by the Respondent State by denying them the opportunity to register resulting in their exclusion from the voter’s list.

The applicant was represented at Monday’s hearing while the Respondent State was not represented.

In the suit, the applicants alleged that the decision of the country’s embassy in Senegal to suspend the arrangements for their registration on December 3, 2019, a decision that was compounded on 16th December 2019 following the indefinite suspension of the exercise in the Republic of Senegal by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI)  is a violation of their right to participate in the country’s elections. In the application filed by Mr. Abdul Gadiri Diallo, Mr Abdoul Goudoussi Sow, Mr Amadou Sangare and Mr Abdoul Homili Diallo on behalf of the group, the applicants said that the compensation is respect of the damages and prejudice suffered by the alleged refusal of the respondent State to register them as this would qualified them for the voter card that will make them eligible to vote in the December 2020 legislative and presidential elections as well as the constitutional referendum. The applicants, who are represented by their counsel, Mr. Drame described the suspension as illegal and a violation of their right to participate in the elections in disregard not only of the Guinean constitution but also in defiance of articles 1g 7, 33 of the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance of ECOWAS, Articles 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Articles 3 and 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and 25 of the ICCPR.

The applicants stated that this exclusion from the electoral process caused them harm and therefore urged the Court to order the State of Guinea to pay each of them Five million (5,000,000) CFA francs which made of One billion two hundred and ninety five million (1,295,000,000) CFA francs for all of them. They also asked the Court to order the State of Guinea to pay all costs in the sum of twenty-three million (23,000,000) CFA francs. The applicants urged the Court, not only to find the suspension a deliberate obstruction of their right to take part in the direction of the public affairs of their country, but also to find that they were victims of discrimination when their fellow citizens located in more distant countries were duly registered. In documents filed before the Court, the applicants noted that while they were preparing for the voter registration scheduled for November 28, 2019 in Senegal, it was only on November 29, 2019 that the State of Guinea contacted the Senegalese authorities asking them to set up voting and security arrangements for the exercise, 24 hours after the date of the commencement of the registration.

In the initiating application filed before the Court’s Registry on March 12, 2020, the applicants said that in order to exercise the right to vote in the Republic of Guinea, a citizen must have a voter’s card issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and be at least 18 years of age at the close of the electoral list. Citing the country’s constitution, they claimed that registration on the electoral list is a right and a duty for all Guineans. They said that while the CENI had set 28th November 2019 as the date for the registration  in the country’s Embassies and Consulates and 16th February 2020 specifically for the legislative elections, it was only on 29th November 2019 that the State of Guinea requested the assistance of the Senegalese authorities  to put in place the requisite logistics and security measures for the registration, a day after the scheduled start registration of the exercise. Moreover, the applicants noted that to register, a citizen must have a valid passport, contrary to article 19 of the revised electoral code which requires either an identity card; passport; the military booklet; the civil or military pension book; the student or pupil card for the current year; the consular card or a certificate issued by the district head of the district and countersigned by two notables.The Applicants alleged that the imposition of these conditions to reduce the number of registered voters as it is impossible to renew passports in Senegal without travelling to Guinea. They declared that on December 3, 2019, the Embassy of Guinea in Senegal unilaterally decided to suspend the installation of all the Administrative Commissions for the Establishment and Revision of the Electoral Lists under the pretext that “this measure aims to finalize the administrative arrangements with the Senegalese authorities” explaining that this decision should in principle come from the CENI.  They said that on December 16, 2019, the CENI definitively suspended the registration exercise and the revision of the electoral lists on Senegalese territory. The applicants noted that while Guineans abroad, notably CANADA and France, were registered, their fundamental right to benefit from an electoral card which should allow them to participate in the elections were violated by the suspension of the exercise in Senegal. But the Republic of Guinea, represented by the State counsel, Mr. Joachim Gbilimou urged the Court to declare that the violations of human rights invoked by the applicants have not been established and therefore asked that the claims of the applicants be dismissed.By a separate application filed on the same 12th March 2020, the applicants requested interim measures requesting the Court to order the Guinean State to take urgent and necessary measures to allow the registration of applicants so their names can appear on the electoral list which will qualify them to vote.

But the State of Guinea opposed the request for interim measures and urged the Court to reject the request as pointless and unfounded. A panel of three judges of the Court comprising Justices Edward Amoako Asante, Presiding,  Gberi-be Ouattara, Dupe Atoki heard the case.