The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights has unanimously dismissed a case filed by beleaguered businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, against the state.
The court said Woyome’s right to non-discrimination, right to equality before the law, equal protection before the law and his right to be heard by an impartial tribunal had all not been violated.
Why the African court?
In Ghana, Woyome has been ordered to refund 51.2m cedis paid him in 2009 as judgment debt.
He got it in a default judgment after he said government had abrogated a financial engineering services he had with the state.
Since the order to refund the money, Woyome has been running to different courts challenging the state’s effort to retrieve the money.
The state has identified some properties in an effort to have them sold off to defray the debt. It was then that Alfred Woyome went to the African court hoping to stop the auctioning off of his properties.
He secured an order from the court not to sell off the properties until the case has been determined. It now has.
Right to be heard by an impartial tribunal
Woyome had argued, this right was violated because a Supreme Court judge Justice Jones Dotse had made some personal remarks against him when he brought the controversial judgment debt saga to the Supreme court for constitutional interpretation.
Justice Dotse expressed a personal opinion on a non-constitutional matter when he stated Mr Woyome had “entered into an alliance to create, loot and share the resources of this country as if a brigade had been set up for such an enterprise.”
That comment in July 2014 went viral.
Woyome alleged at the African court in May 2018, this comment denied him the right to be heard by an impartial tribunal as he lost the constitutional case at the Supreme Court.
He pointed to the guarantees of this right as stated under Article 7 of the African Charter, a document which forms the basis of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Right.
But the African Court ruling on this matter said Justice Dotse although he wrote the lead judgment on the constitutional matter, he was only one of the 11 judges.
“The court is of the opinion that a single judge’s remarks cannot be considered sufficient to taint the entire bench. Furthermore, the applicant has not illustrated how the judge’s remarks at the ordinary bench later influenced the decision of the review bench”
Right to non-discrimination, right to equality before the law, equal protection of the law
The Arusha-based court also found that “the applicant has not demonstrated or substantiated how he has been discriminated against or treated differently” under Article 2 and 3 of the Charter.
The Malawian judge, Lady Justice Tujilane Rose Chizumila , also said the court could grant the applicant’s request for reparations because no violation had been established. “The issue of reparation does not arise,” she said.
”Consequently, the applicant’s prayer for reparation is dismissed”, the court said and also decided not to award cost to any party.
Government not surprised by ruling
Even before this judgement, the government had expressed confidence, the outcome would be favourable and branded the action by Woyome as one of several antics to frustrate the state’s rightful effort to retreive its money.
Following the judgment, Deputy Attorney-General Godfred Dame has said “it affirms the point that the State has always dealt fairly with Woyome and respected his rights.”
He once again stressed, “the decision from the African Court marks the end of Woyome's tricks and machinations. It is a boost to the government in its quest to recover the funds he illicitly and unconstitutionally obtained from the State."
The Republic of Ghana signed to the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights on 1 March 1989, and to the protocol to the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human & Peoples’ Rights on 16 August 2005.
It deposited on 6 March 2011, a declaration under Article 34(6) of the Protocol, accepting the jurisdiction of the court to receive cases from individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations.