Citizens of ECOWAS member states can file complaints against human rights violations of state-actors at the regional Court of Justice. ECOWAS member states have decided to give the court, which exists formally since 1991 and was in practice only set up in 2001, a specific mandate in that respect. The court that is seated in Abuja, Nigeria, rules according to the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The decisions are legally binding to the ECOWAS member states.
The Court has competence to rule on human rights violations through an individual complaint procedure since 2005. Particularly noteworthy is that local remedies do not need to have been exhausted, before cases are brought to the ECOWAS Court of Justice. So every victim of a human rights violation can directly appeal to the court even while the case is subject to a national proceeding.
Cases may be brought before the Court by an application addressed to the Court Registry. Every application shall state
The applications must be sent to the following address:
The ECOWAS Court of Justice has already made a number of rulings on human rights issues. In 2008, the Court took a pioneering decision concerning slavery: The State of the Niger was convicted having violated the human rights of one of its citizens. While the Court found that Niger was not itself responsible for the discrimination– the plaintiff was subjected to by a non-State actor, namely her former master – the country was found in violation of its international obligations to protect Mrs Hadijatou Mani from slavery under international as well as national law because of its tolerance, passivity, inaction, and abstention with regard to the practice. Niger had to pay reparations in the amount of 10 million CFA francs (more than 20,000 US-Dollar). The judgment has been referred to as historic, because this is one of the first slavery cases ever to be won at the international level.