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Stephen John Rutakikirwa vs United Republic of Tanzania

On March 3rd, 2016, Mr. Stephen Rutakikirwa, applicant, 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 3 and 7.

Mr. Rutakikirwa had been tried and convicted of armed robbery before the Bukoba District Court on November 12th, 1999. This decision was confirmed successively before the High Court on March 4th, 2008 and the Court of Appeal on November 11th, 2011. At the time the application was lodged with the Court, the applicant was serving his 30-year prison sentence in Butimba 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 March 24th, 2022, 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, the alleged violation of his right to a fair hearing (Art. 7(1) of the Charter), the applicant claims that the national courts did not take into consideration all the evidence he submitted. After examination, the Court concluded that the manner in which the Court of Appeal considered the Applicant’s appeal did not reveal any manifest error and did not constitute a denial of justice to him;
  • As regards the violation of his right to free legal aid (Article 7(1)(c) of the Charter), the applicant claims that he did not receive any assistance from any counsel before the national courts. Reaffirming its settled case-law, the Court held that the fact that he was unable to benefit from legal assistance constituted a breach of his right to a defence and to be represented by counsel of his choice.

Judgment of 24-03-2022.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.