Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New (to us) international tribunal finds Niger liable for failure to protect from slavery

Just when we thought we knew the gamut of new international and internationalized courts and tribunals, along comes this news:
On Monday Niger was found liable for having failed to prevent enslavement, and thus was ordered to pay € 15,000 ($19,000), plus costs and interest, to its enslaved national, Hadijatou Mani (above).
A dozen years ago, at the age of 12, Mani was sold for $500, Le Monde reports, "to a master who exploited her not only as a domestic and agricultural servant, but also as a wahiya, a sexual slave." This "master" was a friend of someone who "years earlier, had reduced Mani's mother into slavery." Eventually Mani "desired to marry someone else," and sought recourse in Niger's courts. For her trouble, she was convicted of bigamy under local customary law, and put in prison. (credit for Agence France-Presse photo by Boureima Hama)
Aided by the NGOs Anti-Slavery International, Interights, and Timidria, Mani sought recourse in an international tribunal: the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, established 17 years ago as part of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), a 23-year-old regional international organization comprising the 15 member states of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo -- and, of course, Niger. (map credit)
Decisions of the 7-member Court are binding and nonappealable. The Court has jurisdiction to hear allegations that a state has violated a right articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 4 of that 1948 instrument states:
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Monday's decision marked the 1st time that Niger's been found liable for failing to protect a citizen from slavery -- notwithstanding the NGO estimate that as many as 43,000 of Niger's 12,000,000 people are slaves.
Anti-Slavery International's Romana Cacchioli said of the decision:
It demonstrates that a woman from the least favored class in society has rights.
To which Niger's representative replied:
We obey the law and will respect the decision.
Mani herself had this to say:
I am very happy with this decision. I feel that I am a human being like everyone else.


Fiona de Londras said...

Has anybody managed to find a copy of this judgment??

Diane Marie Amann said...

Hi, Fiona,
I cannot find a copy of the judgment. The ECOWAS Court's site appears to have suspended web construction a couple years ago.
The best I could find was a "summary of judgment" by Interights, one of the NGOs involved, on its website. See