Bernard Babele vs United Republic of Tanzania

On April 22nd, 2016, M. Bernard Babele, applicant, filed before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) an application instituting proceedings against the United Republic of Tanzania concerning alleged violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) in its Articles 3 (2), 7 (1) (c).

Mr. Babele, a Tanzanian citizen, was serving a life sentence at the time of the commencement of the proceedings for rape of a minor under 15 years of age. The judgement was pronounced on February 12th, 2009 by the Geita District Court. The applicant appealed against that decision successively to the Mwanza High Court and the Court of Appeal. The two courts upheld the judgment undertaken, although following different reasoning.

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, to the alleged violation of the right to a fair trial protected by Article 7(1) of the Charter, the applicant submits that:
    • He was deprived of his right to have his case heard (art 7(1) of the Charter): claiming, inter alia, that the High Court had erred in upholding his conviction without taking into account the fact that certain fundamental elements had not been established in accordance with the standards laid down by law. After examining all the elements submitted for its consideration, the Court concluded that no denial of justice or manifest error had been demonstrated;
    • He did not have adequate representation before the courts pursuant to section 7(1)(c) and 8(1) of the Charter, which he said should invalidate his sentence. Tanzania countered that free legal aid is not automatic for crimes not deemed “serious”. The Court recalled, however, its consistent case-law according to which it interprets Article 7 (1) (c) of the Charter in the light of Article 14(3)(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In addition, when the accused are indigent and the possible sentences in question may be severe, legal aid must be provided to them whether they apply for it or not. However, this obligation apply only in first instance and on appeal, while the applicant alleges a violation of his right to legal aid in the proceedings relating to the application for revision of the judgment
  • Finally, as regards to the alleged violation of the rights to equality before the law and equal protection of the law protected by Articles 3 (2) of the Charter, the Court notes that the Applicant has not shown that he was treated differently from other accused person in the same situation.

Judgment of 30-09-2021.pdf

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.