THE ECOWAS COURT DECLARES A VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 4 OF THE AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES RIGHT AND ORDERS FOR REPARATIONS

The ECOWAS Court of justice on 11th December 2023, has ordered the State of Guinea to pay Two Hundred and Sixty-Nine Million (269,000,000) Guinean Francs as compensation for emotional harm for the violation of the right to life and integrity to the Applicant whose son was fatally injured during a protest in Labe in Guinea. The Court also ordered that the Respondent pays the Applicant Forty-Four Million (44.000, 000) as damages.

Hon. Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma, Judge Rapporteur, delivered the judgment on behalf of the Panel which held that the Respondent had violated the fundamental right of the Applicant under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other fundamental human rights treaties.

The Applicant, Mamadou Mouctar Balde, had filed a claim before the Court alleging the violation of his son Amadou Balde’s right to life. He averred that the son died from a fatal injury sustained during a riot at the University of Labe, where the Respondent’s agents were maintaining law and order. The Applicant asserted that the Respondent acknowledged the death of his son but failed to fulfill its obligations under international law. In view of these claims, Applicant sought for a declaration of violation under Article 4 of the ACHPR, along with monetary compensation and costs.

The Respondent acknowledged that the death of the Applicant’s son but denied responsibility, claiming its agents had a lawful mandate. It averred that an investigation was initiated and prosecution followed but was halted after a fire incident at the Court of First Instance in Labé, destroying case documents. The Respondent argued that it has made efforts to reconstruct the file since this incidence. It contended that it has not violated the Applicant’s human rights and requested that the Court declare the application inadmissible in form, and on the merit, dismiss the claim for lack of evidence.

It prayed for costs in cause.

The Court cited that the issue of a death was not contended rather the contention was whether a violation had occurred and the responsibility of the Respondent in this instance. The Court emphazed that states have a duty to safeguard the right to life during protests. Consequently, it concluded that Amadou Balde’s death in the Labe protest constitutes a violation under Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People Rights.

The Court also found that the Respondent’s claim of lack of documents to continue the trial after the fire incident unacceptable, as there is no evidence supporting this assertion. The Court held that, based on the available facts and evidence, the Respondent failed in its obligation under Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and People Rights. This is due to the fact that the act of the violation of the right to life is attributable to the Respondent.

The Court therefore made orders that the Respondent pays Two Hundred and Sixty-Nine Million Guinean Francs (269,000,000 GNF) as compensation for emotional harm and Forty- Four Million Guinean Francs (44,000,000 GNF) as damages to the Applicant.

The Panel also consisted of Hon. Justice Gbéri-bè Ouattara, presiding and Dupe Atoki (Member).