Republic of Senegal ordered to pay 50 Million CFA Francs to Belgian for Rights Violations

The ECOWAS Court has ordered the Republic of Senegal to pay 50 million CFA francs as compensation to a Belgian, Mrs Lays Catherine Josephine Ghislaine for the violation of her right to liberty while in detention in the country prior to extradition five years ago.

Delivering the judgment on Monday, 26th October 2020, Justice Januaria Moreira Costa held the Respondent, the Republic of Senegal, liable for violation of the Applicant’s right to liberty but held that the State did not infringe on her right to dignity, the second plea made in the initiation application. It also dismissed other reliefs sought by the Applicant, declaring them unfounded.

Mrs Ghislaine had in her initiating application in suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/01/19 filed January 7, 2020, alleged she was arbitrarily arrested in September 2015 in furtherance of an international arrest warrant issued by a Belgian court and detained in prison by agents of the Respondent during which she was subjected to degrading treatment in the course of her extradition to Belgium.

The Applicant added that the process for her extradition exceeded the stipulated 30 days period provided for in the Senegalese law relating to extradition. 

She averred that although the order for her extradition was issued on June 14, 2016, she was eventually extradited on November 24, 2016 in contravention of Senegal’s law that provided that the victim if not extradited within 30 days should be released.  

Her counsel, Mr Assane Dioma Ndiaye, claimed that the Applicant also endured hunger strike and was wrongly diagnosed of cancer with the attendant fear and anxiety and therefore sought orders of the Court declaring the Respondent liable for the violations, and the payment of 500 Million CFA francs as reparation, as well as the cost of litigation.

In response, the Respondent did not counter the claims of the Applicant on the applicable law concerning extradition but argued that the Applicant provided no evidence to back her claims of being detained beyond the stipulated time.

The Respondent further argued that the hunger strike embarked on by the Applicant took place during the legal period of detention and that the medical report carried out by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)  only suspected cancer.   The counsel added that the Applicant did not prove how the disease was directly or indirectly related to her detention.

Also on the panel were Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara and Dupe Atoki.

In another suit, the Court absolved the government of the Republic of Senegal of the violation of the right of one Senegalese, Mr. Siny Dieng who was tried and sentenced for money laundering and the funds seized by the government.

In the judgment also delivered by the judge rapporteur, Justice Januaria Moreira Costa, Court rejected the claim of the Applicant that the trial and seizure of the estimated 100 million CFA franc based on the order of a court violated his right to fair hearing and property as guaranteed by various legal texts cited in the initiating application in suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/50/19.

Mr Dieng, claimed that the money was income from work done in Europe over nine years, during which he saved and repatriated about 100 Million CFA francs to his home country.

On their part, the Respondent’s counsel Mrs Ramatoulaye Ly raised a preliminary objection in which she argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter as it will amount to the court interfering in national laws and reviewing the final decision of a national court.

She also argued that the rights of the Applicant were respected as he was accorded fair hearing and was represented by his counsels during all the proceedings at the national courts and even appealed the matter up to the Supreme Court.

Mrs Ly further argued that there was no violation of the presumption of innocence and that the Applicant was convicted and the money seized based on the State’s Act No. 2004-09 of February 6, 2004 on combating money laundering. The State then urged the Court to dismiss the case as unfounded.

The matter was adjudicated by a panel of three judges which also included Justices Dupe Atoki and Keikura Bangura.