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ECOWAS Court to rule on case against gov’t ban on demonstrations Dec. 1

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The ECOWAS Court of Justice has fixed 1st December 2021 for judgment in a case brought by two Senegal-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – the Senegalese League of Human Rights and Amnesty International, Senegal challenging a government ban on demonstrations.

Both NGO’s, which are registered in Senegal, alleged in suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/37/20 that the Ministerial Order of 20 July 2011 prohibiting demonstration is inconsistent with the Constitution of Senegal and international legal instrument to which Senegal is a signatory, and a violation of their rights especially those of assembly and to demonstrate.

At the hearing of the suit on 23rd September 2021, the Court dismissed the preliminary objection of the government of Senegal in which it challenged the propriety of the NGOs to file the matter before the Court as they neither have the capacity to approach the Court as victims nor the mandate of the victims to represent them.

Counsels to the government, Messrs. Antoine Diome, Felix Moussa and Samba Biteye, therefore urged the Court to declare the suit inadmissible.

However, the Applicants through their lawyer Mr Assane Ndiaye told the Court that Amnesty International had appeared in representative capacity before the Supreme

Court of Senegal, where it was admitted, especially in cases involving the protection and defence of human rights. Citing the relevant jurisprudence /decided cases of the ECOWAS Court concerning legal representation before the court, the NGO’s requested the court to dismiss the objections of the Senegalese government and to hear the substantive matter.

Both NGO’s relied on Articles 8 and 10 of the Senegalese Constitution, Articles 8 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Articles 18 (3) and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration of human Rights which guarantee the right to civil and political freedoms among others.

The NGOs are seeking reliefs of the court declaring the Senegalese government liable for violations of their rights especially freedom of assembly and demonstration, freedom of expression and freedom of movement and an order for compensation in the sum of 500,000,000 CFA Francs.

In its defence, the Senegalese government said the order banning demonstration around buildings housing the three arms of government and other places including hospitals was enacted for security reasons following past instances of demonstrations that resulted in deaths. He added that the State respects law and order and that the law equally provides limitations in the interest of national security and freedom of others.

The matter was heard by a panel of three judges comprising Justices Edward Amoako Asante, Gberi-Be Ouattara and Januaria Costa.

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