JUST IN: ECOWAS court finds FG guilty of rights violation during #EndSARS protest

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) community court of justice has found the federal government of Nigeria guilty of human rights abuses in its response to the #EndSARS protest in October 2020.

The court on Wednesday, found Nigeria in breach of Articles 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, specifically on the right to life, security of person, freedom of expression, assembly and association, prohibition of torture, the duty of the state to investigate, and the right to effective remedy.

The applicants, Obianuju Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, alleged that these violations occurred during the peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on October 20 and 21, 2020.

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The judge rapporteur, Justice Koroma Sengu, who delivered the judgment, dismissed the allegation that the right to life as guaranteed under article 4 of the ACPHR is violated.

He, however, said that the Federal Government must pay each applicant N2 million as compensation for violations of their security of person, prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, duty to investigate human rights violations, and right to effective remedy.

Additionally, he said the Federal Government must adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, investigate and prosecute its agents responsible for these violations, and report to the court within six months on the measures taken to implement this judgment.

The applicants alleged that during the peaceful protests against the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 and 21, 2020, the respondent committed several human rights violations.

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Triggered by the alleged killing of Daniel Chibuike, the protests aimed to address police harassment and brutality.

The three applicants alleged various human rights violations by the Nigerian government during the October 2020 Lekki Toll Gate protests.

The first applicant claimed that soldiers shot protesters, causing deaths and injuries, and that she received threatening calls and was forced into hiding after live-streaming the incident. The second applicant stated that soldiers fired after a power cut, leading to her hospitalization due to tear gas, while the third applicant described narrowly escaping being shot and witnessing inadequate hospital care for victims.

The applicants sought compensation and declaratory relief from the court, which the respondent (Nigerian government) denied, arguing that the protesters assembled unlawfully and that its agents followed strict rules of engagement without harming anyone.

The respondent also alleged that the applicants incited violence, provided support for the violent protest, and did not provide credible evidence to support their claims.

However, the court found that Nigeria breached several articles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, resulting in fundamental human rights violations, and ordered reparations to the applicants. Although the court did not find a violation of the right to life, it declared that the applicants were denied the right to an effective remedy.

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