Judgment in the matter of late Norbert Zongo and others v. Burkina Faso.

hummerArusha, 28 March 2014: The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights rendered a judgment on application No. 013/2011 ; Beneficiaries of late Norbert Zongo, Abdoulaye Nikiema, Ernest Zongo, Blaise Ilboudou and the Burkinebe Human and Peoples’ Rights Movement v. Burkina Faso at a Public Hearing. 

The matter dates back to the alleged assassination on 13 December 1998, of M. Norbert Zongo, an investigating journalist and Director of the weekly paper, l’Indépendant, and his companions, notably, Abdoulaye Nikiema known as Ablassé, Blaise Ilboudo and Ernest Zongo. Their corpses were found burnt on 13 December 1998 in the car which was transporting them at a few kilometers from Sapouy, on the road to Leo, in the south of Burkina Faso.

In their application, the Applicants alleged the violation to Articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Articles, 2 (3), 14 and 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, etc., by Burkina Faso.

In their pleadings before the Court, the Applicants argued that Norbert Zongo and his companions were assasinated in 1998 but that till date, those responsible for this odious crime had not been identified and no justice had been rendered to the victims and their families.

Burkina Faso representatives in the matter before the Court rejected all these allegations and blamed the Applicants for rushing to seize the African Court without having exhausted all local remedies though the matter of the assasination of Nobert Zongo was given considerable media coverage in Burkina Faso judiciary. That the matter was investigated and that witnesses were even heard.

After listening to the arguments of the parties, the Court concluded that the Respondent State, Burkina Faso, failed in its obligation to take measures, other than legislative, to ensure that the rights of the Applicants for their cause to be heard by competent national Courts are respected. The Respondent State therefore violated Article 7 as well as Article 9 (2) of the Charter, read jointly with Article 66 (2) c) of the revised ECOWAS Treaty, because it failed to act with due diligence in seeking, trying and judging the assassins of Norbert Zongo and his companions. Hence, Burkina Faso simultaneously violated Article 1 of the Charter by failing to take appropriate legal measures to guarantee the respect of the rights of the Applicants pursuant to Article 7 of the Charter.

Meanwhile the Court concluded that the Respondent State did not violate Article 1 of the Charter, and that it did not violate Article 1 of the same Charter,  in its obligation to adopt legislative measures.

The Court differed its decision on request for reparation and ordered the the Applicants to submit their brief on reparations within thirty days from the day of pronouncement of the judgement. It also requested the Respondent State to to submit to the Court, its brief in response on the reparations within thirty days from the date of reception of the brief of the Applicants.

The Applicants were represented by Ibrahima KANÉ, Anselm Odinkalu CHIDI and Bénéwéndé Stanislas SANKARA, Counsel, while Burkina Faso was represented by a team of government advocates, notably, Antoinette N. OUEDRAOGO and Anicet Pascal SOMÉ, Counsel.

The public and the media witnessed the Public Hearing at the seat of the Court (Kibo Hall), situated at the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Conservation Centre (TANAPA). The hearing was also followed live on www.livestream.com/afchpr .