Amini Juma vs United Republic of Tanzania Case
On April 13th, 2016, M. Amini Juma, the applicant, filed an application instituting proceedings before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) concerning alleged violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) in its Articles 4, 5 and 7.
The applicant had been sentenced for murder by the High Court of Tanzania on September 18th, 2006 to life imprisonment. This decision was upheld by the Tanzania Court of Appeal on October 17th, 2011. His prison sentence had been replaced by the mandatory death penalty provided for in the Tanzanian Penal Code. At the time of the commencement of the proceedings, the applicant was incarcerated in Maweni Central Prison.
The applicant did not request provisional measures. However, the Court applied Article 27(2) of the Protocol and Article 51(1) of its Rules of Procedure and concluded that in the present case, circumstances of extreme gravity, urgency and the risk of irreparable harm justified the taking of such measures. In its Order dated June 3rd 2016, the Court ordered the Respondent State to stay the application of the death sentence imposed on Mr. Juma, stating that this decision was without prejudice to its ruling on the merits of the case.
On November 21st, 2019, the Republic of Tanzania deposited the instruments of withdrawal of the Court’s declaration of jurisdiction to receive applications from individuals and non-governmental organizations. In issuing its decision on September 30th, 2021, the Court has been faithful to its consistent jurisprudence of dealing with all cases enrolled in the Registry before the date of entry into force of the withdrawal of the declaration.
As a preliminary point, Tanzania raised objections relating to the lack of jurisdiction of the Court and inadmissibility of the application. After examining the matters, the Court concluded that the case was admissible and declared itself competent to hear it. It then turned to the merits of the case:
- As regards, first of all, the applicant’s alleged violation of his right to a fair trial, protected by Article 7(1) of the Charter, he submits, inter alia, that:
- His right to the presumption of innocence (Article 7(1)(b) of the Charter) had not been respected and considered that he had been convicted on the basis of elements “extremely weak, inconsistent and/or removed from the file because they were unreliable”. Moreover, in his view, certain exculpatory evidence had been dismissed in the proceedings before the national court. The respondent State refutes this allegation, stating that all procedural guarantees had been respected. After examining the documents produced, the Court considered that the conviction had been handed down not only on the basis of solid evidence proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but that no manifest error or denial of justice could be identified;
- His right to a defence before the courts (Article 7(1)(c) of the Charter) had been disregarded because of the inexperience of the counsel provided to him during the proceedings before the High Court: the Court did, however, found that the applicant had not raised this point before the appeal court even though he had a new lawyer. Moreover, on examination, it would appear that counsel had followed his client’s instructions;
- His right to be tried within a reasonable time limit (art 7(1)(d) of the Charter) had been violated: in the present case, a period of 4 years, 9 months and 10 days had passed between the time the applicant had been imprisoned and the time he had been tried. Since the investigation took only one week to conclude, the Court confirmed that the delay in processing the file had been unreasonable;
- His right to be tried by an impartial tribunal (art 7(1)(d) of the Charter) was overlooked, but this assertion was not supported by any concrete evidence in the case.
- As regards to the applicant’s alleged violation of his right to life, protected by Article 4 of the Charter: the Court accepted that the mandatory nature of the said penalty in the Tanzanian Penal Code does not allow the accused to present mitigating circumstances. This rigidity was in violation of article 4;
- Finally, as regards to the applicant’s alleged violation of his right to dignity, protected by Article 5 of the Charter: the Court held that the method of carrying out the death penalty, by hanging, was inherently degrading in nature.
Hence, the Tanzanian legislation had violated Articles 4 and 5 of the Charter. The Court ordered the respondent State to adjust its law to settle this issue. It also awarded the applicant 4 million Tanzanian shillings.
This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.