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Lawyers take govts’ to ECOWAS court over human rights issues



Two Nigerian legal practitioners, Festus Oguche and Robert Ken, in collaboration with their counterparts from other countries that make up the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) have dragged their respective governments before the regional court.

They are asking the court to make a declaration accepting the competence of the African Court of Human Rights for their citizens and allowing them access to the continental court for the enforcement of their fundamental rights.

In a suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/26/19, the plaintiffs, who are two persons coming from each country, are seeking a declaration that the plaintiffs alongside citizens of their respective countries are entitled to the benefit and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined, guaranteed and protected pursuant to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.


They are also seeking a declaration that the defendants are bound by the provision of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and that as contained in the preamble to the protocol on the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Other reliefs include the fact that by withholding the declaration pursuant to Article 34 (6) of the Protocol on the establishment of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights as to enable their citizen have access and seek redress in the African Court for violation of their fundamental rights, the defendants are infringing on the fundamental rights of their citizens under the African Charter.

The plaintiffs are consequently seeking an order of court, compelling the defendants to encourage and provide the necessary enablement for human rights litigation and enforcement against infringement.

They also want a provision of adequate measures that will allow their citizens unimpeded access to national and international fora for the ventilation of their grievances, and seek redress for infringements of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The complaints centre mainly on the refusal of the ECOWAS Community countries to abide by the declarations pursuant to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; denial of right of access to ventilate Human Rights violations and complaints before the African Regional Court of human rights set up by the African Union as well as the refusal by the said countries to expand the scope for redress of human rights infringements beyond the sub-regional level.

The plaintiffs noted that currently, Africa holds the highest number of human rights violations globally, and the bulk of the violations are the direct acts of the states and their actors.

According to them, the existence of the court would provide the veritable forum to hold such state violators to account. They cited examples of Africans being subjected to all manner of inhuman treatments and indignities in such places as Libya, South Africa and Mauritania, where state institutions are indifferent to dehumanization of citizens.

Though defendants have been served, no date has been fixed for hearing of the case.

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