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Ernest Karatta et al. vs United Republic of Tanzania

On January 26th, 2017, Mr Ernest Karatta and 1746 other applicants 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 2, 3(2), 14 and 15.

The applicants, all Tanzanian nationals, former employees of the defunct East African Community (EAC), claimed that they had not received all of their terminal service benefits when the institution was dissolved. They brought an action for payment of those sums against the United Republic of Tanzania before the High Court of Dar-Es Salaam on May 9th, 2003. However, an amicable settlement between the Parties was reached in 2005 and resulted in the withdrawal of the claim before the courts.

The agreement, which provided for the payment by Tanzania of the sum of 117 billion shillings to the collective of former employees, was ratified by the High Court on September 21st, 2005. Payments began to be made in the aftermath. During 2010, some beneficiaries claimed not to have received all of their allowances with respect to various rules of the defunct institutions. They filed an action before the High Court on October 15th, 2010, to collect what they felt was the balance of their rights. This request was rejected. This decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal, which referred the parties to start another appeal to the High Court composed with different judges. 

The High Court, in a different formation than the one that had previously sat, rejected the request of the collective of former employees on May 23rd, 2011 to issue an order against the State of Tanzania. The applicants therefore appealed to the Court of Appeal for the second time. By judgment dated January 25th, 2016, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision.

The day after that judgment, the applicants brought the present action before this African Cour. In particular, they contended that Tanzania had violated the principles protected by the Charter, namely the right to non-discrimination, the right to equal protection before the law, the right to property and the right to work.

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 non-discrimination (Article 2 of the Charter): the applicants claim that the refusal to pay the sums mentioned constitutes a violation of that article, which the respondent State denies. The Court states that a difference in treatment becomes discriminatory only where it has no objective or reasonable justification and is neither necessary nor proportionate to the objective pursued. In the present case, the applicants have failed to demonstrate how they were discriminated against in relation to a group of persons in a similar situation. The Court therefore rejected that first plea;
  • As regards to the alleged violation of the right to equal protection before the law (Art. 3(2) of the Charter): the Court noted that the applicants had not provided any details of how that right had been infringed and therefore rejected this plea;
  • As regards the alleged violation of the right to property (Article 14 of the Charter): the applicants submitted that the term “property” contained in the above-mentioned article included wages and allowances and that by failing to pay those sums, the Tanzanian State was in breach of the provisions of the Charter. The defender refutes this point. The Court notes that the central point of the case is the agreement concluded between the two parties and approved by decision of September 21st, 2005. It was therefore the parties themselves who settled the dispute and the Court found no breach of procedural rules by the national courts. It therefore rejected this plea;
  • Finally, as regards to the alleged violation of the right to work (Article 15 of the Charter) and more specifically the right to remuneration: the Court considers that the Applicants have not demonstrated how the respondent State violated their right to work in general and their right to remuneration in particular. In these circumstances, the Court finds no reason to interfere with the conclusions of the domestic courts and therefore rejects the Applicants’ allegations on this point.

As no plea was successful, the Court rejected the applicants’ application.

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.