ECOWAS Court agrees to expedite a suit brought by members of the parliament of Guinea against the referendum to extend tenure of the President

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has granted an Application for Expedited Procedure in a case filed by Guinea’s opposition leader and 50 others in which the plaintiffs alleged that the referendum planned by the government to prolong the tenure of the President after exhausting the two terms allowed by the constitution, amounted to the violation of their rights.

In a ruling read by the Vice President of the Court, Hon. Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara, on Thursday, 19th March 2020, the Court held that contrary to the objection of the counsel to the plaintiffs- the Republic of Guinea, 14 other Member States and the ECOWAS Commisison- the Court has jurisdiction to entertain the matter as human rights violation has been invoked.

The Court however rejected the Plaintiffs’ request for Provisional Measures, describing it as unfounded in view of the fact that the legislative election and referendum earlier scheduled for 1 March and rescheduled for 22 March has been suspended indefinitely, following the intervention of ECOWAS and others.

On the admissibility of the Defendants as parties before the Court, the Court held that the inclusion of ECOWAS Commission as first defendant was inadmissible after noting the report of the mission arranged by the Commission to Guinea, indicating that ECOWAS Commission had responded to the situation in Guinea.

The Court also struck out the other 14 ECOWAS Member States listed as defendants in the case, leaving the Republic of Guinea as the only proper defendant.

The Court therefore adjourned the case to 30th April 202for hearing on the merit.

In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/14/20 filed by the leader of the opposition, Mamadou Diallo, 46 other Members of Parliament (MP) and four (4) other Guineans, the Plaintiffs alleged that the planned referendum by the government of Guinea for a new Constitution that will enable the President to run for the office of the President after two terms in office allowed by the Country’s Constitution, violated their rights.

The four other Guineans are members of the National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC) a Coalition of Civil Societies and opposition political parties.

The Plaintiffs had, through their counsel, Barrister Alpha Yaya Drame, filed three applications – Initiating Application, Application for Expedited Procedure and Application for Provisional Measures – before the Court on 24 February 2020.

They claimed in the suit that President Alpha Conde of Guinea unlawfully ordered the coupling of legislative elections and that the constitutional referendum scheduled for 1 March 2020 infringed on their rights and exposed them to security risk following the tension in the country.

They contended that if allowed to hold, the proposed referendum would infringe on their right to protection against “any amendment or revision of the Constitution or legal instruments which infringe the principles of democratic change”, as provided for in articles 1 (c) of the ECOWAS Protocol A/SP1/1201 on Democracy and Good Governance and 23.5 of the African Charter on Democracy.

Moreover, they claimed that it will also violate their right to participate in the management of public affairs in their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives as guaranteed under the applicable international legal instruments.

Moreover, they averred that the president’s proposed project had equally attracted condemnation from religious bodies in the country and various international institutions/organisations including the African union and the United Nations citing the security risk.

Relying on Article 21 of the 2005 Protocol on the Court as amended, the plaintiffs sought orders of the Court for provisional/interim measures “it considers necessary or expedient.”

The plaintiffs had urged the Court to note the urgency deduced from facts in support of their request for interim measures and order a disjunction of the legislative elections from the constitutional referendum. Likewise, they urged the Court to order the postponement of the scheduled popular consultations to allow inclusive participation of all political parties, suspend the proposed constitutional referendum and any other act that could infringe on their rights.

They also urged the Court to pronounce the provisional measures effective pending the hearing of the case in its merit and eventual judgment of the Court.

They requested the Court to order the defendants to bear the costs.

Also on the panel were Justices Edward Amoako Asante and Keikura Bangura.