Houngue Eric Noudehouenou vs Republic of Benin
On September 17th 2020, Mr. Houngue Eric Noudehouenou (the applicant) filed an Application instituting proceedings against the Republic of Benin (the defendant State) before the African Court on 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 2, 9, 10 and 11.
On March 25th, 2020, the Republic of Benin withdrew the Declaration under which Benin accepted the jurisdiction of the Court to hear cases filed by individuals and non-governmental organizations. There was therefore a legal question regarding the fate of all the current cases not yet decided. In its judgment of December 1st, 2022, the Court clarified that this withdrawal had no impact on pending cases and on new cases referred to it before the entry into force of said withdrawal, i.e. on March 26th, 2021.
The applicant asserted that the respondent State had adopted legislation which violated the principle of judicial independence and which did not allow judges to appeal against the sanctions imposed on them or to stage a strike. He also disputes the validity of the electoral system in Benin and a memorandum from the General Tax Service.
The applicant filed a request for the indication of provisional measures aiming to order the respondent State to take all necessary measures to ensure his safety, that of his family and counsel and to try the case as a matter of urgency. In its order of 27 November 2020, the Court rejected this request.
The applicant submitted a new request for the indication of provisional measures in order to suspend any application of Article 410 of the Criminal Code against the Complainant and his counsel. The Court again rejected this request.
As a preliminary point, Benin raised objections to jurisdiction and inadmissibility of the Application. After examining the pleas in law, the Court concluded that the case was admissible and held that it had jurisdiction to hear it. She then turned to the merits of the case.
- As regards, first of all, the alleged violation of the independence of the judiciary (Article 26 of the Charter), the Applicant asserts that the absence of a separation of powers is effective in so far as the executive power influences the judiciary by virtue of the composition of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (SJC). The respondent State did not reply on this point. In the light of the evidence presented, the Court concluded that the appointment and composition of the SJC reflect an imbalance in favour of the executive and therefore the conditions for the independence of the body are not met. Accordingly, Article 26 of the Charter was violated.
- As regards, next, the alleged failure to strike the right balance between the requirements of the general interest of the community and the requirements of protecting fundamental individual rights (Articles 8 to 11 of the Charter), the Applicant submits that the prohibition of strikes by judges is arbitrary and unlawful. Benin did not reply on these questions. The Court notes that the law of January 04th, 2018 on the status of the judiciary was repealed by the law of October 05th, 2018 maintaining the right to strike of magistrates. It follows that the alleged violation of the right to strike and those of related rights alleged by the Applicant are devoid of purpose.
- As regards the alleged violation of Article 30 of the Court’s Protocol, the Applicant claims that the present Court has delivered several judgments which have not been followed nor implemented by the defendant State, which has not replied on this point. The ACHPR notes that it has not received any report on the execution of the decisions it has rendered, nor does Benin dispute that it has not executed them, thus violating the above-mentioned provision.
- Finally, as regards the alleged violation of the right to an effective remedy (Article 7 of the Charter), the Applicant submits that neither citizens nor judges have a fair remedy, before their promulgation, against laws adopted by parliament. The respondent State did not conclude on this point. After examining the law of the defendant State, the Court concluded that both citizens and judges have effective remedies against the laws and decisions binding on them. There was therefore no violation of article 7 of the Charter. The Court rejected the applicant’s last plea alleging unconstitutionality of the revision of the Electoral Code.
The Court ordered Benin to pay XAF 5 million to the applicant for the non-pecuniary damage suffered and ordered the defendant State to take all necessary measures to bring the impugned legislation into conformity with Benin’s international commitments.
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.