Is Benin Turning Rogue?

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In light of what is transpiring in Republic of Benin since 2016, under Patrice Talon Administrations it’s easy to conclude that the country once dubbed as the cradle of the democracy in Africa having now, settled in an autocratic state of affairs is lately taking a rogue approach vis-à-vis international treaties and international judicial proceedings. brandishing national sovereignty. The country’s authorities have deliberately and consistently refused to comply with judicial decisions from Africa’s  supranational courts such as the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR),  and the Court of Justice of West African Economic and Monetary Union. 

The African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) is an international and regional court in Africa. It was founded in 2004 by a merger of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Court of Justice of the African Union. It is the primary judicial agency of the African Union. 

The court is based in the city of Arusha, Tanzania, as is the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and as was its predecessor the Court of Justice of the African Union.

The court has two chambers, one for general legal matters and one for rulings on the human rights treaties. Within this the court has both an advisory opinion role and adjudicative role. The court is competent to interpret its own judgments in an appellate chamber.

On November 27th  and December 4th,  2020, The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued several orders and judgments against the Republic of Benin.

By these decisions, the African supranational court found that the State of Benin was the author of several human rights violations and ordered the annulment or repeal of several institutional and constitutional reforms in the country.

The Court considers in particular that Benin has violated

  • The right to strike
  • The right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture and the right to an inherent human dignity.
  • The right not to be discriminated against, 
  • The right to freedom of association and the right to participate freely in the conduct of public affairs in one’s country.
  • The rights of victims
  • The right to freedom of association
  • The right to independence and impartiality of electoral bodies
  • The right to the independence of the judiciary

It is worth noting that the violations to the right to life and to not be subjected to torture were perpetrated in the context of the post-electoral crisis of the legislative elections of 2019 where several demonstrators were shot and killed by the military.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights also denounced the lack of “guarantee of the independence of the judiciary” in the country and ruled that the recent “constitutional revision was adopted in violation of the principle of national consensus,” without public debate or referendum as required by the African Charter on Human Rights.

This constitutional revision was carried out overnight on November 1, 2019 and in emergency procedure, in violation of constitutional rules, without the Beninese people ever having been informed and not having been able to discuss it in prior, all by a National Assembly composed exclusively of the only deputies of the two parties of the Head of State, the Beninese opposition having been excluded from the legislative elections of April 28, 2019.

These decisions come some 5 months before the presidential election in April 2021 and when the Beninese regime has put in place an institutional system which de facto excludes the presence of opposition and independent candidates from the presidential race.

The African Court noted that all the texts adopted by the current regime have created a situation constituting a risk to the peace and security of the people of Benin.

The supranational court thus ordered the State of Benin to take all measures to withdraw, annul or repeal the incriminated texts and violating the human rights of Beninese.

The Beninese authorities, through the government spokesman, announced that the Beninese state does not intend to comply with these decisions, brandishing national sovereignty.

This position of the Beninese government is confirmed by the withdrawal of the declaration of competence  of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights allowing Beninese citizens to seize the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the event of human rights violations. 

Deprived of rights in their country, Beninese citizens are thus deprived of seeking justice in other’s African Judicial processing’s.

  • Considering that the Constitution of the Republique of Benin in its preamble, Reaffirm its “attachment to the principles of democracy and human rights as they have been defined by the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted in 1981 by the Organization of African Unity and ratified by Bénin on January 20, 1986 and whose provisions make up an integral part of this present Constitution and of Béninese law and have a value superior to the internal law”; 
  • Considering that the people of Benin and the entities in whose favor the judgment was rendered are determined to execute said judgment by any available means necessary;
  • Considering the constant tendency of the Government of the Republic of Benin to systematically reject the execution of any decision rendered by the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights but also by the Court of Justice of West African Economic and Monetary Union (also known by its French acronym, UEMOA) which are unfavorable; 
  • Considering the potential negative consequences (in the short and long term) of these latest decisions of the Court on the socio-economic and political stability of the country, since in the long term it is the legal signature of Benin which is in question;

For any observer it is clear from what is described above and all that transpired these past four years in the country under the  Administration Talon one could conclude that the country once dubbed as the cradle of the democracy and now fully settled in an autocratic state of affairs is now taking a rogue approach vis-à-vis international treaties.

It is the legitimacy of the Beninese political authorities and hence the legal value of the contracts signed with the State of Benin that are in question and could have serious implications for development partner organization of the Benin government and their stakeholders. Many of those organization are reviewing  their internal policy choices and the decision to engage and contract with a country which has distinguished itself and is still illustrated in “the violation of the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture and the right to respect the inherent human dignity”. As they are concerned about their corporate social responsibility, the court of public opinion as well as institutional cores values.

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