ECOWAS Court Holds Ivoirian Government Liable for Violating Rights of a Child, to pay 250 Million CFA Francs and ordered to amend its law

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has held the government of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire liable for the violation of the right of a daughter who was excluded from benefitting from the estate of the late father and ordered the government to pay 250 million CFA in damages for violating her right to equality before the law.

Delivering the Court’s judgment in a suit filed by Dame Marie Jeanne Yasmine Ajami on behalf her under aged daughter, Honourable Justice Januaria Moreira Costa also ordered the Ivoirian government to amend its legislation concerning paternity and affiliation to align it with its obligation under Article 1 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Court however dismissed the plaintiff’s allegation of unfair trial before the Ivoirian courts and all other claims.

In suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/23/16 filed before the Court on 22 August 2016, the plaintiff alleged the gross violation of the fundamental rights of her daughter by the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire particularly her rights to fair trial, equality before the law, non discrimination and respect for the best interest of the child as guaranteed by various Articles of national and international legal texts.

The plaintiff claimed that her daughter’s birth was duly registered in Côte d’Ivoire in view of the father’s declaration and that the defendant’s national court’s denial of the daughter’s benefits of her late father’s succession was not in the interest of the child thereby violating the fundamental rights of the child.

She therefore urged the Court to declare the defendant liable for the violations, and pay five (5) billion CFA Francs as reparation for the prejudice suffered and all other costs. She also sought an order for a retrial before the national courts to repair the prejudice.

On their part, the defendant argued that the ECOWAS Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case on the grounds that it was not a Court of Appeal for national courts. The defendant also argued that Article 22 of its law on paternity and affiliation requires that recognition by a father for a child born outside of legal marriage must be made with the consent of his legal wife.

He added that the Ivoirian legislation aims to promote marriage and legitimate family and encourage morality.

The three-member panel comprised Honourable Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara (presiding), Dupe Atoki, and Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa (judge rapporteur).

In another case suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/51/18 involving Tahirou Djibo & three others, the Court dismissed as unfounded, the claim of the Plaintiffs of the violation of their right to property by the Republic of Niger.

Honourable Justice Januaria T.S. Moreira Silva who also delivered the judgment of the Court while declaring the case admissible, observed that the plaintiffs did not provide adequate proof regarding their ownership of the land in the suit.

The plaintiffs – Tahirou Djibo, Amadou Madougou, Abdoulaye Soumaila, and Sidikou Abdou through their counsel Mr Idrissa Tchernaka, filed the suit before the Court on 19 October 2018 alleging they were ejected from their land by the defendant without compensation.

They further alleged that the defendant’s refusal to apply/follow the procedure for expropriation as provided in the defendant’s Law on expropriation for public use and temporary occupation of property/land amounted to the violation of their rights to property, equal protection and non-discrimination, effective remedy among others.

The plaintiffs also argued that the land in dispute located in Gountou Yena area has been their ancestral land for many generations before it was allocated by the defendant to a third party.

The Defendant however submitted that the plaintiffs were never owners of the land, adding that the State of Niger allocated a portion of the land to a third party since it held the title deed on the land in dispute.

On the panel were Honourable Justices Gberi-Be Ouattara (presiding), Dupe Atoki, and Januaria T.S. Moreira Costa (judge rapporteur).