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Dar Ordered to Halt Death Penalty for ex-ICTR Worker

Arusha. Tanzania has been ordered to refrain from executing the death penalty against a Cote d’Ivoire national, Armand Guehi, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the High Court in Moshi on March 30th, 2010.

Judge Augustino Ramadhan, the president of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, addresses media practitioners outside the seat of the continental court in Arusha in a past event.

The death sentence was later upheld by the Court of Appeal, the highest Court in Tanzania, on February 28th, 2014, a year before he filed an application before the African Court of Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) pleading for halting of the execution process pending the determination of the suit.

Guehi, a former employee of the now disbanded International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, was convicted by the High Court for killing his wife in October 2005. The body of the latter was retrieved in Hai district, Kilimanjaro region.

But he later challenged the sentence before the African judicial body based in Arusha, arguing that his conviction cannot be said to have been "fair and just" because several of his rights were violated in the process and that his right to fair trial was prejudiced.

He alleges that during the five years preceding his trial in 2010, the Tanzania government did not provide him with language assistance at critical stages of the case such as when he was interviewed and recorded his statements at the Police Station. At a time of his arrest he could only speak and understand the French language.

In addition, he alleges that the Respondent (Tanzania government) never facilitated consular assistance for him and failed to secure his properties in his house in Arusha and as a result the said properties were arbitrarily disposed of.

In a ruling made after its recent two week hearing, the African Court said after receiving the application, it had to satisfy itself, prima facie, that it has jurisdiction on the merits of the case under Artices 3 and 5 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the establishment of the judicial organ.

Article 3 (1) of the Protocol provides that the jurisdiction of the Court shall extend to all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation of the Charter, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the states concerned.

Tanzania, it emerged, ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on March 9th, 1984 and the Protocol on 10th February 2006 and is party to both instruments.

The country equally deposited on @9th Mrch 2010, a declaration accepting the competence of the Court to receive cases from individuals and non-governmental organizations.

The alleged violations the applicant (Mr. Guehi) is complaining about are guaranteed under Article 7 of the Charter and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and, according to the ruling, the African Court, therefore, has ’prima facie’ jurisdiction ’ratione materiae’ over the application.

The Court was told that Tanzania (the respondent) acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on June 11th, 1976 and deposited its instrument of accession on the same date and, therefore, has jurisdiction to deal with the case.

In a ruling read by the Vice President of the Court Lady Justice Elsie N. Thompson, the Court said it was empowered to order provisional measures ’proprio motu’ in cases of extreme gravity in order to avoid irreparable harm to persons such as Mr. Guehi who is on death row and risking execution.

According to her, the rights of the applicant are protected by Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights if the death sentence were to be carried out.

"The Court, therefore, unanimously orders the respondent (government of Tanzania) to refrain from executing the death penalty against the applicant pending determination of the application and to report to the Court within 30 days from the date of receipt of this Order on measures taken to implement the Order", she said in the ruling

Up until February 29th this year, the African Court had received 74 applications of which 25 have been finalized. Four applications have been transferred to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.

By Robert Muriisa.

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