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Evodius Rutechura vs United Republic of Tanzania

On January 13th, 2016, Mr. Evodius Rutechura, (the applicant) filed an application instituting proceedings against the United Republic of Tanzania before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court or the ACHPR) for alleged violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) in its articles 3 and 7.

Mr. Rutechura had been tried and sentenced to death by hanging for the murder of a young girl during a burglary at her father’s home by the High Court of Tanzania sitting in Mwanza on November 19th, 2008. The judgment was upheld by the Tanzania Court of Appeal on June 18th, 2010. An application for review had been filed but the delay for admission to the role had expired. He then applied for an extension of time in order to be able to file the application for review. The Court of Appeal dismissed the application for lack of good reasons. At the time of the filing of the application with the African Court, the applicant was detained in Mwanza Central Prison pending the execution of his sentence.

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 March 18th, 2016, the Court ordered the Respondent State to stay the application of the death sentence imposed on Mr. Rutechura, stating that this decision in no way prejudged its decision on the merits of the case.

Order of 18-03-2016.pdf

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 February 26th, 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 the alleged violation of the right to a fair trial (Article 7 of the Charter), the applicant submits that:

  • Tanzania’s refusal to grant him an extension of time to file an application for review when he was ill and could not file the application on time constitutes a violation of his right to a fair trial. The Respondent State submits that the Applicant did not provide any justification for the Court of Appeal to grant him an extension of time for the purpose of filing his application for review. In the light of the evidence provided, the Court concludes that the manner in which the Court of Appeal rejected the applicant’s application for review after the time limit does not reveal any manifest error or denial of justice to the Applicant. The argument cannot therefore prosper.
  • Failure to choose a counsel of his choice is a violation of his right to a fair trial. Tanzania replies that he was assisted by 4 counsel before the national courts. The Court further notes that there is nothing in the file to support the conclusion that the Applicant was not adequately represented or that he raised this issue in the proceedings before the national courts. Furthermore, the Applicant has not substantiated his claim in the present case. The argument is therefore rejected.
  • Prosecution witnesses were affiliated in one way or another with the victim’s family and served their own interests. The respondent State asserts that this is not the case and that all procedural rules have been complied with. After examination, the Court concluded that Tanzania had not committed any denial of justice or manifest error in light of the provisions of the Charter.

As no violations were committed, the Court did not have to rule on the issue of reparations.

Judgment of 26-02-2021.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.