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ECOWAS Court Throws Out Human Rights Violations Case Against Mali

The case included charges of rape, sexual violence, forced marriage, and torture by non-state actors.

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 the northern part of the country which has been under 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 under-aged girl.

Some of the Applicants, who were among 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 to 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, 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 with the violation of the rights to fair trial and the right to 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 prosecution of perpetrators under the Maputo Protocol, the Court held that the Respondent having established 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).

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

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