Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The community Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Friday in Abuja, dismissed the legal action instituted by two associations in Mali challenging the sanctions imposed on the country following the August 18, 2020 coup against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The groups had in the dismissed suits predicated their action on the ground that the sanction was imposed through a statement issued by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, who allegedly lacked the competence to issue such a statement.
In it’s ruling on the two interlocutory processes filed by the Malian Coalition and Consumers Association of Mali, the regional court said it lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The three-member panel of the court led by Justice Dupe Atoki held that “Jurisdiction is fundamental to the power of the Court and it must be established, more so, when raised as an objection… and the need to establish same is imperative even in a preliminary procedure as this.”
The Court held that having subjected the statement to the various categories of situations in which it can exercise jurisdiction, the court ‘’comes to the conclusion that it cannot situate the statement of the President of the ECOWAS Commission either as directive, decision, recommendation nor opinion.”
“Consequently, it has no jurisdiction to entertain the Applicants allegation as regards the statement of the President of the Commission,’’ the Court concluded.
Besides, it was the position of the court that while it was not persuaded by the reasons adduced by the first Respondent, the ECOWAS Commission, it was inclined to declare the application inadmissible based on the provisions of Article 9 (a-e) of the 2005 Protocol of the Court from where it derived its jurisdiction.
It also cited Article 6 (2) of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty which obliges institutions of the Community to exercise their functions within the limits of the powers confined by the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, Supplementary Acts and annexed Protocols.
Consequently, the court also ruled that since it has no jurisdiction to hear the case, it will not deliberate on the legality of the statement and therefore dismissed all other claims in the application.
In the initiating application filed before the Court on 9th September 2020, the associations claimed that the sanctions constitute not only the violation of the right of the people of Mali to the freedom of movement guaranteed in ECOWAS texts, but also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of Malian citizens in the Community as well as their right to non-discrimination.
Among the reliefs sought by the Applicants, is an order for the payment of compensation for prejudices suffered in the sum of 1,000,000 CFA francs for each individual, another 10,000,000 CFA francs for each legal person as well as the payment of the same amount for the violation of their human rights.
The associations also prayed the court to order the state of Cote d’Ivoire to pay a symbolic 1 CFA to the plaintiffs for the violation of their human rights, through the discriminatory treatment of Malians.
Also on the panel were Justices Keikura Bangura and Januária Tavares Silva Moreira Costa.