Gambia, three others before ECOWAS Court for Human Rights Violations

Seven new cases were filed by Community citizens in four Member States during the two month annual vacation of the Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS between July 15th and 15th September2016, according to records at the registry of the Court.

Nigeria with four, topped the list of the cases while the others came from The Gambia, Guinea and Mali mainly for the alleged violation of the human rights of the plaintiffs, particularly the right to life, freedom of expression and violation of social/cultural, political rights and/or economic deprivation.

In one of the cases from Nigeria, representatives of eight communities in Agatu in the country’s Benue States are asking the Court to award ten billion naira as compensation for the deaths, injuries and the destruction of their properties suffered as a result of three attacks since March 2013, the most recent being in March 2016, which were allegedly carried out by Fulani herdsmen and the inaction of the government in restraining them.

According to the plaintiffs, the first incident took place on 12th March 2013 when they along with other villagers were attacked by heavily armed men who killed hundreds, maimed hundreds of others, raped women and burnt buildings including private houses, schools, places of worship and medical facilities.

Seven months later the second attack took place according to the initiating application resulting in the death and injury to more than 100 villagers and the destruction of properties valued at more than 200 million naira. The third incident reportedly took place in March 2016 during which, according to the plaintiffs, over 500 villagers were killed,

1,000 others injured and over 600 houses burnt while 5,000 persons were rendered homeless following the destruction of ten communities.

The plaintiffs blamed the ‘nonchalance, insensitivity and lack of political will’ of the Nigerian government for the serial attacks for not using its laws and security apparatus to protect them despite the ‘monumental human rights abuses inflicted on the people of Agatu and neighbouring communities by the herdsmen.

Moreover, they accused the government of not taking any measure to identify, arrest and prosecute the herdsmen, despite the country’s obligations to protect their human rights as provided under the country’s constitution and various international instruments to which it is signatory.

The six plaintiffs, who described themselves mostly as farmers, hunters and fishermen and who are suing on behalf of the other victims in the eight communities, claimed that they lost about 1 billion naira in belongings beside the fatalities and the destruction of their homes.

Among the reliefs sought from the Court are a declaration that the ‘deliberate inaction’ of the government and ‘refusal to recognize and protect’ their rights and those of other victims constitute a breach of their fundamental rights; an order for the payment of 10 billion in compensation to the victims and an order directing the defendant to immediately take legislative, administrative and judicial measures to protect them from the further breach of their rights by the herdsmen.

Moreover, they want the Court to issue another order directing the defendant to resettle, rebuild the destroyed houses and rehabilitate the survivors.

No date has been fixed for the hearing by the Court whose annual vacation ended on 15th September 2016.