The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ordered the Federal Republic of Nigeria to carry out an effective prosecution of Peter Okoro, a man accused of raping a female Nigerian applicant 11 years ago.
The Court held that the respondent (Nigeria) violated the applicant’s right to fair trial under Article 7 (1) (a) of the African Charter by virtue of its failure to conduct speedy and effective trial against the alleged perpetrator of the sexual violence.
The Court however dismissed the applicant's prayer for damages in the sum of 25-million Naira as compensation for the physical and psychological pains and emotional distress caused her.
The Court ordered the respondents to submit to the Court within six months of the date of the notification of the judgement, a report on the measures taken to implement the orders set forth.
It further directed parties to bear their respective costs.
The applicant (name withheld) had gone to the Court after she was raped by Okoro on August 20, 2011, at Olokonla Area of Lagos State, Nigeria at the age of 17 years.
The applicant alleged that after the rape, she was taken to the Lagos State General Hospital, Ibeji Lekki where she was admitted for four days.
The medical report by the hospital indicated that her vaginal canal was free and open, her hymen broken into and there was mild bleeding.
The matter was reported to the Aijwe Police Station in Ajah, Lagos State, Nigeria.
The applicant asserted that the perpetrator was charged with rape and unlawful assault and arraigned before the Lagos State Magistrate Court Ajah Division on September 2011 where he pleaded not guilty.
According to the applicant, she finished her oral testimony in the case by March 29, 2012. However, the trial has suffered various adjournments till date.
She held that accused person was present in Court on January 7, 2013, and he has not been produced in court, even though he is in prison custody.
She said the prosecution had not called other witnesses to enable the accused to open his defence and the trial is stalled leaving her without a remedy, more than seven years after she suffered the rape.
Applicant further held that the case was filed before a court lacking jurisdiction in respect of the offence of rape, adding that the case was filed before a Magistrate Court rather than a High Court which had the exclusive jurisdiction to try the offence of rape.
She contended that by virtue of the above facts, the respondent (Nigeria) was responsible for violation of her rights to dignity, to a fair hearing, to remedy, freedom from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, freedom from discrimination as guaranteed under the relevant human rights instruments, particularly the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (African Charter).
The applicant was therefore seeking a declaration that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has violated her right to a fair hearing pursuant to Article 7 clause (1) (a) of the African Charter on Human and People’s rights.
She was further seeking among others damages in the sum of 25-million Naira as compensation for the physical and psychological pains and emotional distress caused her.
The application was also seeking an order directing the Federal Republic of Nigeria to carry out an effective prosecution and punishment of her perpetrator of sexual abuse suffered by her.
The Court presided over by Mr Justice Edward Amoako Asante, ruled that Nigeria (respondent) was not in violation of the applicant right to dignity and freedom from cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 5 of the African Charter.
The three-member panel held that the respondent’s failure to conduct a speedy and effective trial against the perpetrator of the sexual violence suffered by the applicant did not legally violate her rights to freedom from discrimination under Article 2 of the African Charter.
“That the respondents’ failure to conduct speedy and effective trial against the perpetrator of the sexual violence suffered by the applicant did not legally violate her rights to remedy-Obligation to investigate and arrest under Article 1 of the African Charter.”
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