NIGER CONDEMNED FOR SLAVERY
Niger has been found
responsible of failing to protect 24-year-old Hadijatou Mani from
slavery. The judgement was delivered in Niamey, the capital of Niger
today (Monday 27 October) by the Community Court of Justice of the
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
which has authority across most of West Africa, found Niger in breach of
its own laws and international obligations in protecting its citizens
from slavery. The Court has made clear that Niger is obliged to take
positive measures to protect its citizens from slavery. Ms Mani is to be
compensated 10 million CFA, the equivalent of £12,300/$19,000 in
The Court in its judgement stated that: "There is no
doubt that Hadijatou Mani was held in slavery for almost 9 years in
violation of the legal prohibition on this practice.
criminalised slavery in 2003, but five years on at least 43,000 people
remain enslaved across the country. Hadijatou was born into an
established slave class and like all slaves in Niger, was inherited,
sold and made to work without pay. She was also used as a sexual slave
by her master.
Ms Mani brought the case to the regional ECOWAS
court after failing to receive any redress in Niger's domestic legal
system and state authorities, which had at times been complicit in her
master's attempts to deny her freedom.
The case also follows Ms
Mani serving two months of a six month prison sentence for bigamy. The
charge of bigamy was made following her legal attempts to gain freedom
and marrying a man of her own choosing. The judgment is recognition of
the long standing abuses she has suffered.
Local lawyers were
assisted in bringing the case by INTERIGHTS, the International Centre
for the Legal Protection of Human Rights, with support from Anti-Slavery
International and Niger NGO Timidria.
Hadijatou Mani, said: "I
am very thankful for this decision. It was very difficult to challenge
my former master and to speak out when people see you as nothing more
than a slave. But I knew that this was the only way to protect my child
from suffering the same fate as myself. Nobody deserves to be enslaved.
We are all equal and deserve to be treated the same. I hope that
everybody in slavery today can find their freedom. No woman should
suffer the way I did.
"With the compensation I will be
able to build a house, raise animals and farm land to support my family.
I will also be able to send my children to school so they can have the
education I was never allowed as a slave.
Romana Cacchioli, Africa Programme Co-ordinator for Anti-Slavery International, said: "There
is nothing more fundamental than the right to freedom. People in Niger
now know that if a slave can take the state to court and win, then they
too can confidently stand up for their human rights.
historic verdict sets a legal precedent that we can take to
neighbouring states where slavery remains an issue. Niger now needs to
look closely at its customary law courts to ensure that there is an end
to the discrimination of women and to the acceptance of slavery at a
Helen Duffy, Legal Director at INTERIGHTS said: "For
Hadijatou Mani this judgment is international recognition of the long
standing violations of her most fundamental human rights. During her
testimony before the Court she said she was treated like a goat. Today's
judgement reasserts her rights as a human being. For the ten of
thousands of others trapped in slavery across Niger the ruling sends an
unequivocal message that the long standing provisions on slavery must be
given meaning in practice.
Ilguilas Weila, President of Timidria, an anti-slavery NGO in Niger, says: "For
17 years we have been working towards bringing slavery to the attention
of the authorities. Previously there has been a lack of political will
to deal with the situation on the ground. The law in 2003 was passed
only as part of a charm offensive to please westerners. This verdict
means that the state of Niger will now have to resolve this problem once
and for all.
This was the fist time that the ECOWAS Court
has heard a slavery case and the first time a slavery case has been
brought against the state of Niger to any international or regional
The ruling sets a legal precedent with respect to the
obligations of states to protect its citizens from slavery. The ECOWAS
Court decisions are binding, and the human rights obligations the Court
interprets are applicable to all member states.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
International is the world's oldest human rights organisation and
campaigns for the eradication of slavery, exposing current cases,
supporting local organisations to release the minimum 12.3 million
people in slavery, and the implementation of international laws against
slavery. For further information please contact Paul Donohoe,
Anti-Slavery International's Press Officer, on 020 7501 8934 or email email@example.com
is a UK registered charity based in London which protects and promotes
human rights through the use of law. It brings litigation in key test
cases world wide. INTERIGHTS holds consultative status with the United
Nations Economic and Social Council, the Council of Europe, the African
Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and is accredited to the
Commonwealth Secretariat. http://www.interights.org
Association is a national human rights organisation founded in 1991
with the aim of eradicating slavery and all forms of discrimination in
27 October 2008