ECOWAS Court Dismisses Case Brought by Four Burkinabes Alleging Rights Violations by their Government

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The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has dismissed a case brought by four Burkinabes alleging the violations of their fundamental rights by the government of Burkina Faso following their detention, trial and indictment in connection with the 16th September 2015 coup in the country.

Delivering the judgment on 24th June 2020, Honourable Justice Dupe Atoki, the judge rapporteur, dismissed all the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs including an order of the Court to compel the defendant to repeal paragraph 9 of Article 99 of Law No. 24/94/ADP of 24 May 1994 on the Code of Military Justice.

The Court held that the defendant did not violate the various sections of the legal instruments – African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance among others as alleged by the plaintiffs.

It also urged both parties to bear their costs.

In the initiating application ECW/CCJ/APP/42/17, the plaintiffs, Paul Sawadogo, Mathias Noraogo Ouedraogo, Lassina Ouedraogo, and Moussa Nikiema, claimed that they were arrested alongside others and indicted for various offences following a military coup d’etat of 16 September 2015 and that an investigating judge subsequently ruled that the offences were sufficiently established.

They further claimed that their appeal before the Control Chamber was dismissed pursuant to paragraph 9 of Article 99 of the Code of Military Justice, thereby violating their rights to fair hearing and appeal as this did not comply with the various international legal texts regarding separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

The plaintiffs urged the Court to declare the defendant liable for the violations; compel the defendant to repeal paragraph 9 of Article 99 of Law No. 24/94/ADP of 24 May 1994 on the Code of Military Justice, and pay compensatory damages totaling 20 Million CFA Francs to the four plaintiffs among other costs.

In a counter argument, the defendants urged the Court to declare the case inadmissible and dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs as unfounded and misconceived. The defendant added that the Constitutional Council of Burkina Faso, on 24 October 2017, declared paragraph 9 of Article 99 of Law No. 24/94/ADP of 24 May 1994 on the Code of Military Justice consistent with the Constitution of Burkina Faso, following an application by the plaintiffs.

Also on the bench were Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara (presiding) and Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa.

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