Geneva - 30 August 2023 – The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) on the case of a Ghanaian migrant who disappeared in 2005 in the context of global migration.
The amicus is an intervention in the case of Isaac Mensah against the State of Ghana. Peter Mensah, the claimant’s father, is a Ghanaian migrant who disappeared in July 2005 with 67 other people when they were crossing the Gambia on their way to Europe. According to two former members of former President of the Republic Yahya Jammeh's death squad, known as the "Junglers", they were accused of being mercenaries and allegedly executed upon former President Jammeh's orders. Only one of the migrants survived. To this day, the fate of Peter Mensah remains unknown, and his family members still do not know what has become of him, in spite of continuing to try to locate him. Their attempts to find out the truth with the Ghanaian authorities have been unsuccessful. The Ghanaian government has not responded to their request for documents relating to his enforced disappearance, nor has it provided any information about his whereabouts or about Ghana's efforts to uncover the truth. Nor have the authorities conducted an effective investigation. They have failed to exercise due diligence in locating Peter Mensah and bringing to justice those responsible for his enforced disappearance.
The level of anguish and suffering inflicted on family members has repeatedly been considered by the medical, psychological, and legal community to be serious enough to meet the threshold of the definition of torture
In the amicus, the OMCT argued that Isaac Mensah’s case is illustrative of the thousands of migrants in Africa who disappear every year during their journey without any information or investigation carried out to find them by the governments of their country of origin. Along the Sahara and central Mediterranean routes, the risks have increased in recent years, making migrants more vulnerable to enforced disappearance. The security and immigration policies adopted by certain countries, including Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Morocco, the militarisation of borders, and the criminalisation of irregular migration in Niger, Senegal, and Burkina Faso put migrants at greater risk.
On this ground, the OMCT asked the Court to regard the enforced disappearance as an act of torture against the victims and their families. "The level of anguish and suffering inflicted on family members has repeatedly been considered by the medical, psychological, and legal community to be serious enough to meet the threshold of the definition of torture."
Under international human rights law, families of disappeared persons have a right to know the truth. The rights of migrants, as a vulnerable group, are guaranteed by numerous norms of international law, enshrined in international human rights and migration law as well as in specific conventions.
Through this amicus, the OMCT hopes that the ECOWAS Court of Justice will take a decision inviting not only Ghana but all African States to take all necessary measures to conduct prompt investigations into the many allegations of disappearances of migrants in the desert, at borders, in places of detention and to keep their families informed of the searches. In this way, migrants who are victims of enforced disappearance and their families will be able to obtain redress and adequate compensation, including the means necessary for as full a rehabilitation as possible. If victims die as a result of an act of enforced disappearance, their dependents may also be entitled to compensation.
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