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ECOWAS court declares Nigerian Govt guilty in #EndSARS protest case

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice has found the Nigerian government guilty of human rights abuses during its response to the #EndSARS protests in October 2020.

The ruling, delivered on Wednesday, highlights several breaches of international human rights standards, including disproportionate use of force at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos.

The court specifically cited violations of Articles 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As part of its judgment, the court has ordered the Nigerian government to compensate each named victim in the suit with N2 million.

The applicants, including Obianuju Catherine Udeh (DJ Switch), Perpetual Kamsi, and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, detailed numerous violations during the peaceful protests.

DJ Switch, who live-streamed the events, reported soldiers firing on protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries, and subsequently faced threats that forced her into hiding and asylum.

Perpetual Kamsi, responsible for protester welfare, recounted how soldiers opened fire after a power outage, leading to hospitalization due to tear gas exposure.

Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka narrowly escaped being shot, witnessed soldiers blocking an ambulance, and observed subpar treatment of victims in hospitals.

The Nigerian government had denied all allegations, asserting that protesters unlawfully gathered under the guise of opposing the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). It claimed strict adherence to engagement rules and denied shooting protesters, accusing DJ Switch of incitement through music and social media.

Judge rapporteur Koroma Mohamed Sengu delivered the court’s verdict, acknowledging dismissal of allegations related to the right to life but finding the government culpable for violations including security of person, prohibition of torture, freedom of expression, assembly, association, and duty to investigate human rights abuses.

The court mandated the Nigerian government to uphold obligations under the African Charter, prosecute responsible agents, and report back within six months on implementation progress.

Justices Dupe Atoki and Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves served alongside Judge Sengu on the panel.

This ruling marks a significant step in accountability for human rights abuses in Nigeria, affirming ECOWAS’s commitment to justice and adherence to international human rights standards.

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