The ECOWAS Court of Justice has awarded compensation to a Togolese who brought his government before the Court for violations of his fundamental rights.
Justice Sengu Mohamed Koroma, Judge Rapporteur who delivered the judgment on January 30, said that the Court affirmed it had jurisdiction to hear the case in relation to the Applicant – Mr John-Paul Oumolou’s claims of violation covering the period 2021 to date and declared it admissible.
On the substantive case, the Court held that the Togolese government violated Articles 5, 6, and 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and ordered payment of 12,500,000 (Twelve Million, Five hundred Thousand) CFA Francs as compensation for the violations.
The Court equally ordered the State of Togo to grant Mr Oumolou’s lawyers access to his cell for inquiry and inspection of the conditions of his detention, and for the State to review the conditions his detention to ensure it complies with standard treatment of prisoners.
It also gave an order compelling the government to immediately implement this judgment and report to the Court within three months the level of compliance with the judgment.
The case ECW/CCJ/APP/35/22 was filed before the Court by lead counsel Mr Darius Atsoo and other lawyers to the Applicant on 4th August 2022 on allegation of violations of the Applicant’s rights covering two periods: 2004 t0 2005, and 2021 to present day respectively.
They also asked the Court to grant various reliefs sought.
Concerning the period 2004 to 2005, Mr Oumolou claimed that as President of the Student Union of his university in Lome, he was abducted and detained by unknown persons and subjected to cruel torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and later transferred to a civil prison on charges of willful violence, insulting a public official and destruction of public and private properties.
He contended that he was released without trial after the death of President Eyadema Gnassingbe and later fled to Accra, Ghana in 2006 as a political refugee from where he produced videos criticizing the election process of the 2020 Elections in Togo as well as the restrictions on freedom of expression.
Subsequently in 2021, he claimed he was unlawfully detained by security agents of the Togolese Republic at the border between Ghana and Togo and held in detention under inhuman conditions.
He added that his applications for provisional release were rejected and that subsequent Order by the Indictment Division/Chamber of the Court of Appeal in Lome to have his condition reviewed was not carried out.
On its part, the Respondent – State of Togo represented by Mr Kossi Bakoh told the Court that Mr Oumolou’s allegations lacked evidence and were unfounded, and urged the Court to dismiss the claims.
In its findings, the Court noted that Mr Oumolou’s claims under the period 2004 – 2005 were outside the temporal jurisdiction of the Court and proceeded to determine the matter under the period 2021 to date.
In the Court’s judgment, it held that the Togolese government failed to guarantee Mr Oumolou’s rights to freedom from torture, access to adequate healthcare, and freedom from arbitrary arrest in violation of Articles 5, 16(2), 6 of the ACHPR and Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and awarded the payment of 12,500,000 CFA Francs as compensation. It also awarded cost of litigation against the Respondent State.
The Court dismissed all other claims.
Also on the three-member panel were Honourable Justices Dupe Atoki (presiding) and Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves (member).