The ECOWAS Court has dismissed multiple claims of human rights violations brought by the human rights organisation, Collectif Cri de Coeur pour le Mali, against the government of Mali.
The case, premised on allegations of human rights violations during a conflict, included charges of rape, sexual violence, forced marriage, and torture by non-state actors.
The Applicant, representing the victims, sought judicial redress for these violations under various international human rights treaties, amongst which the Protocol to the African Charter on Women’s Rights in Africa (Maputo Protocol). However, the Court on Monday concluded that the Applicant’s claims lacked sufficient evidence and legal grounding to hold the government responsible.
The Applicants told the Court that since January 2012, Mali has been a theatre of armed conflicts, especially in the northern part of the country which has been under the control of armed groups. They claimed that, during the occupation of the town of Gao from April 2012 to January 2013, many acts of sexual violence were committed against women and underage girls.
Some of the Applicants, who were among the victims of the alleged violations, said they lodged complaints and claims for indemnification through their lawyers as far back as 2016. They alleged that the trial judge held their files for an unreasonable time before sending them to the Public Prosecutor of the Republic in Gao. They claimed that the latter returned their files after five months, informing them of his incompetence on the ground that the alleged facts constituted a terrorism crime and could only be handled by a specialised court.
The Applicants said they have not been able to access their files since, moreover, no other decision has been taken to advance proceedings in the case. They claimed that they have been denied justice and that, by its inaction, Mali violated and continued to violate its obligation resulting from international conventions it freely adhered to.
They prayed the Court declare that the State of Mali has violated their rights to fair trial and effective remedy, the rights of children to health care and health services, and their rights to compensation. They asked the Court to order the Respondent to open investigations and prosecutions against the perpetrators and provide judicial, legal assistance, medical, and psychological care to the victims. Finally, they asked the Court to order the payment of 40,000,000 FCFA for physical harm and 15,000,000 FCFA for moral harm to each of the victims.
The State of Mali contested the association’s claims, asserting the Court’s lack of jurisdiction and the inadmissibility of the case. The Court, while recognizing its jurisdiction and the admissibility of the case, ultimately dismissed the Applicants’ claims on the merits.
In respect to the violation of the rights to a fair trial and the right to an effective remedy, the Court held that the Applicants have not supported their claims with compelling facts and evidence to establish a derogation of the guarantees under Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
On the violation of the Applicant’s rights to the prosecution of perpetrators under the Maputo Protocol, the Court held that the Respondent having established a mechanism to discharge its obligation, did not breach the rights of the Applicants. Other claims were dismissed by the Court for lack of quality evidence necessary to be successful.
Members of the panel of judges were Justices Edward Amoako Asante (Presiding) and Gberi-bè Ouattara and Sengu M. Koroma (Judge Rapporteur).
Canadian Embassy, NIDCOM Collaborate To Manage Migration
Dr. Jamie Christoff, Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, has emphasised the importance of collaborating with Nigerians in the Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) to achieve mutually beneficial migration management outcomes.
The Canadian Envoy made the statement during a visit to NiDCOM Chairman/CEO Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa in Abuja.
He stated, “I understand the impact of large diaspora groups and their contributions to Canada. The Nigerian diaspora is one of our top five migrant groups and a major contributor to Nigeria’s economy. We must assist these Nigerians in migrating on a regular basis.
Christoff went on to say that the two must work together to bridge the gap in Nigerians’ expectations, particularly those who are acting with good intentions, in order to showcase the best of Nigeria.
The envoy stated, “This can be accomplished through regular engagements with Nigerians, knowledge and information sharing on the proper steps to regular migration, and what to expect in Canada.”
According to the Ambassador, he and his team are ready to assist the commission with opportunities, time, and expertise to achieve a better-managed migration.
Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO NiDCOM, welcomed the delegation and expressed her appreciation for the visit, as well as the offer of partnerships, revealing some of the Commission’s ongoing projects with the Nigerian Diaspora in Canada.
She recalled her time in Canada meeting with Nigerian groups and the many positive developments that resulted from the interactions.
The NIDCOM CEO stated, “This year, we will host the Nigeria-Canadian Business Summit in Canada, as well as a Nigeria Day, to bring together this large diaspora group to explore ways to make an impact, both in the host country and back home.”
Dabiri-Erewa reiterated that both countries have numerous opportunities to capitalise on, adding that the Commission, with the assistance of a Councillor in Canada, is working on a Canada Pull Factor as a pilot project to harmonise Nigerian data in Canada with the Diaspora Data Mapping portal.
She also mentioned other strategies implemented by the Commission to engage Nigerians in Diaspora, such as the National Diaspora Policy, the National Diaspora Day Celebration/National Diaspora Merit Award, the Diaspora Investment Trust Fund, the Diaspora Door of Return Festival, and Diaspora Medical Missions, among others.
Don’t Judge Our Performance By Present Political Situation, ECOWAS Insists
Dr. Alieu Touray, President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, has expressed concern that the current political situation in the subregion has overshadowed the regional bloc’s efforts to address the needs of its citizens.
He said this while lamenting the low trade volume among member states, which is around 12%.
Touray also said the trade volume within the larger African continent was not also impressive as it stands under 20%.
Speaking at the maiden briefing on the activities of the sub-regional body on Wednesday in Abuja, Touray said: “There is so much more that ECOWAS is engaged in, because ECOWAS is present in virtually all facets of human development in the region, planning and providing
for the contemporary needs of the community.
“Unfortunately, these laudable strides in the region’s relentless march towards
an economic union have been overshadowed by contemporary political developments.”.
He said with the strategies and policies in place to encourage trading and movement of goods and people within the subregion, it is disheartening that trade amongst member states is abysmally low, noting that: “At the moment, our intra community trade stands around 12%. On the whole in Africa, intra continental trade is under 20% which is extremely low.”
He stated, “When you look at developed countries, countries that are sufficiently integrated, or regions that are sufficiently reintegrated, intra-continental trade alone is around 60 to 70%.
” So we have a long way to go. Very long way to go and this is why it is important that we open our markets for our own produce, our own manufactured items.”
He also emphasised the importance of having a sufficient local content in subregional production.
Russia Praises ECOWAS’ Partial Lifting Of Sanctions On Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso
Russia has praised the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) decision to lift some sanctions imposed on departing members of the bloc, Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, as a result of military intervention in civilian governance.
An official statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said: “The window for dialogue between the Sahel States Alliance (SSA) and ECOWAS remains open, and the decisions made at the Abuja summit can be seen as a demonstration of political will in the interest of maintaining Community unity.”
The statement said, “On February 24th, an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was held in Abuja, Nigeria, where the most pressing regional issues were discussed. The forum resulted in a series of important decisions, including those addressing the preservation of ECOWAS unity in light of the recent announcement by the leadership of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso of their “immediate” withdrawal from its membership. These countries, amidst the Community’s imposed restrictions, established a new integrative alliance in September 2023, named the “Sahel States Alliance” (SSA), aimed at consolidating efforts in national defense and security.
The forum resulted in a series of important decisions, including those addressing the preservation of ECOWAS unity in light of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso’s recent announcement of their “immediate” withdrawal from the organisation.
“The Russian side emphasizes that the West African states should determine their own ways to resolve the current situation. The window for dialogue between the SSA and ECOWAS remains open, and the decisions made at the Abuja summit can be seen as a demonstration of political will in the interest of maintaining Community unity.
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