Yahaya Zumo Makame vs United Republic of Tanzania

On April 13th, 2016, Misters Makame, Mpakarasi, Ibrahim and Pourdad (together the applicants) filed an application instituting the proceedings against the United Republic of Tanzania before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (the ACHPR or the Court) for alleged violations of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter) in its articles 3 and 7.

The applicants were tried and convicted of drug trafficking by the High Court of Tanzania in a judgment dated August 10th, 2012. This conviction was upheld by the Tanzanian Court of Appeal. At the time of filing the present application, they were incarcerated in Maweni Central Prison, Tanga and serving a sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment.

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 June 25th, 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 to the alleged violation of the right to a fair trial (Article 7 of the Charter), the applicants submit that:

  • Tanzania violated their right to appeal as they were only able to appeal the High Court’s judgment to the Court of Appeal. The fact that there is not a higher level of jurisdiction when certain other offences benefit from the triple level of jurisdiction constitutes discrimination is in breach of Article 3 of the Charter. The defendant State replied that the applicants had the possibility, if they felt aggrieved, to lodge an application for review. The Court notes that Tanzania’s judicial system has a 3-degree structure but that the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that certain offences, including drug trafficking, are dealt with by the High Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal, as was the case in the present case. Since the applicants had not proved that they had been discriminated against in relation to other persons accused of drug trafficking, the means could not succeed.
  • The Tanzanian courts allegedly erred in assessing the evidence that led to their conviction. The respondent State, for its part, asserts that the courts did not err in the case. The Court notes that the applicants were represented by counsel and that the national courts examined all the pleas put forward before them. Therefore, the Court finds no denial of justice or manifest error.
  • One of the applicants did not understand the proceedings, which constituted a violation of his right to a fair trial. Tanzania replies that, on the one hand, they did not raise this plea before the Court of Appeal and, on the other hand, the person concerned never requested the assistance of an interpreter. The Court ruled in favour of the respondent State.

Since no means had prospered, there was no need to rule on the question of reparations.

Judgment of 25-06-2021.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.