The ECOWAS Court of Justice on 11th December 2023, dismissed a case brought by a Guinean alleging violation of his rights to fair, impartial and independent court proceedings by the State of Guinea.

In its judgment delivered by Hon Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma, Judge Rapporteur, the Court affirmed it had jurisdiction to hear the case and declared the application admissible. However, it held that the Applicant – Mr Souleymane Bah’s rights were not violated as claimed. 

In addition, the Court dismissed the preliminary objection of the Respondent – State of Guinea challenging the admissibility of the case before the Court as well as Mr Bah’s application to compel a witness to testify before the Court. It also dismissed all other reliefs and claims sought by both parties, and ordered Mr Bah to pay a symbolic cost of 10,000 CFA Francs to the State of Guinea. 

In the case with suit number ECW/CCJ/APP/24/19, filed on 3 June 2019, Mr Bah claimed the violation of his rights to fair, impartial and independent tribunal as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (ACHPR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). 

Mr Bah, who was represented by his lawyer – Mr. Alpha Yaya Drame, told the Court that a partial Order was issued against him under his nickname “Thia’nguel” but that he was neither notified of the allegations against him nor was he given an opportunity to respond to the same. He also told the Court that he learnt of his conviction to life sentence from the press. 

He averred that he was tried in absentia which contravenes the provisions of the Guinean Code of Criminal Procedure and asked the Court to order the State of Guinea to, inter alia, pay him general and economic damages as his conviction has equally affected his contract with an international organisation. 

On its part, the Respondent – State of Guinea represented by Mr. Joachim Gbilimou, denied Mr. Bah’s claims adding that Judgment No 03 of 9th January 2018 involving Thia’nguel was not the same person as Mr. Souleymane Bah and that Thia’nguel was never identified as Mr. Bah during the trial. 

He further argued that Mr. Bah should have opposed the decision of the national court if he felt he was the same person, and moreover, the nickname was not indicated as a party to any contract with an international organisation as claimed. The Respondent therefore asked the Court to dismiss all the claims of Mr. Bah and award costs in its favour. 

Concerning Mr Bah’s request for the Court to compel the Attorney-General of Guinea to give evidence before the Court, the Court noted that the facts and evidence before it did not establish a connection between Mr. Bah, the indictment and or the said judgment from the national court, and therefore dismissed his application. 

However, the Court ordered the Guinean government to refrain from arresting or detaining Mr. Souleymane Bah in relation to Judgment No 3 of 9th January, 2018, following the government’s earlier submission that “the criminal Judgment n° 03 of 09/01/2018 of the Tribunal of First instance of Dixinn did not target Mr Souleymane BAH”. 

The Court dismissed all other claims after noting that ‘the so-called Thia’nguel was never formally identified at any of the judicial stages’ and therefore Mr. Bah cannot claim his rights were violated because he was neither served any notice of action, nor given opportunity to defend himself, and he could not have appealed or challenge the default judgment of the national court as Mr. Souleymane Bah.

Furthermore, Judgment no 03 of 9th January 2018, could not have caused Mr Bah, the termination of his contract because the agreement between the parties allowed for the possibility of non-renewal of the said contract.

The Court also dismissed Mr. Bah’s claim for compensation on the grounds that media report which is not a usual channel of court communication cannot be taken as a court process. 

It awarded a symbolic 10,000 CFA Francs as cost in favour of the State of Guinea.  

Also on the three-member panel were Honourable Justices Gbéri-Bè Ouattara(presiding) and Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves (member).