Ladislaus Onesmo vs United Republic of Tanzania

On August 23rd, 2016, Mr. Ladislaus Onesmo, the applicant, filed with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) an application instituting proceedings against the Republic of Tanzania for alleged violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) in its Articles 3(2) and 7(1)(c).

Indeed, Mr. Onesmo, a Tanzanian national, was serving a 30-year sentence at the time of the filing of the proceedings after being convicted of armed robbery on March 13th, 2012 by the Ngara District Court. The applicant appealed against that judgment successively to the Bukoba High Court and the Tanzania Court of Appeal. Both courts upheld the judgment undertaken. At the time of the application, he was incarcerated in the Central Prison.

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:

  • The Court of Appeal did not consider all the grounds of appeal and they were combined into two pleas, which worked against him. After examining the evidence presented, the Court concluded that the case was heard successively before the District Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal and that Mr. Onesmo was involved at all these stages. The fact that the arguments were regrouped into different means had no bearing on the compliance with the procedural rules. The plea is therefore rejected;
  • His right to legal aid was violated in so far as he was not represented by counsel before the national courts, which the respondent State had not contested. Applying its settled case-law, the Court construed the provisions of Article 7(1)(c) of the Charter in the light of those of Article 14 3(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Law (ICCPR) and concluded that Tanzania had indeed violated the provisions of Article 7(1)(c) of the Charter.

The Court awarded 300,000 Tanzanian Shillings for the non-pecuniary damage suffered by the applicant.

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.