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18 April 2024

LA CJ-CEDEAO a rejeté les arguments quant au non-respect de l'État du Mali de ses obligations de garantir un procès équitable et d’enquêter de manière adéquate concernant des cas de violences sexuelles liées aux conflits armés perpétrées à Gao, au Mali, entre 2012 et 2013.

The Collectif Cri de Coeur (CCC) along with its counsel and Lawyers without Borders Canada (LWB Canada) express their deep disappointment at the decision handed down on January 29, 2024, by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court of Justice) concerning cases of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) perpetrated in Gao, Mali, which sends a contradictory signal in the fight against impunity for this type of human rights violation in West Africa.


Deciding otherwise would have forced the Malian state to comply with its obligation under international law to investigate, prosecute and try the perpetrators of CRSVs and would have reasserted the rights of victims and survivors to be heard in the context of a fair trial.


Between January 2012 and April 2013, the city of Gao was the scene of several serious human rights violations, in particular acts of rape and forced marriage, while under the control of non-state armed actors. Given the lack of investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators of these crimes, CCC, supported by LWB Canada, filed a complaint in 2018 against the Malian state, accusing it of failing to meet its obligation to protect human rights under international and regional law.


In light of these allegations, The ECOWAS Court of Justice relied on the creation of the Specialized Judicial Pole against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime (SJP), and the work of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) to dismiss the argument that the State failed to adequately investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.


What the Court omitted to consider is that these entities have failed to meet the victims’ expectations of justice. Indeed, since the SJP was created, proceedings brought before this mechanism have stagnated; what’s more, none of the CRSV cases brought before it have been tried to this date. What’s more, the TJRC has not yet published its final report and the reparations that were supposed to benefit the victims have yet to materialize.


Not to mention that the existence of non-judicial transitional justice mechanisms should not restrain the access to judicial mechanisms, as both instances are complementary rather than mutually exclusive. Victims have the right to obtain justice within a reasonable timeframe in the context of a fair trial.


“This decision is a missed opportunity to give survivors the protection and support they deserve in their quest for justice, reparation and truth” (our translation), holds Almahady Moustapha CISSÉ, President of the CCC.


“We respect the Court’s decision, but reaffirm that the Malian state has a duty to respect its national and international obligations to respect human rights and the victims and survivors of atrocities. The State of Mali must therefore make available the necessary resources to put an end to impunity, in particular against gender-based violence. We will continue to invest all our efforts and expertise to support it in this objective”(our translation), underlines Brian MENELET, Director of LWB Canada – Mali.


Moreover, this unfortunate decision by the ECOWAS Court of Justice has the potential to hinder efforts of Malian civil society organizations (CSOs) in their relentless fight for justice and reparation for CRSV survivors. It could also further erode the Malian population’s already fragile trust in national courts at a time when their role is perhaps more important than ever.


Survivors, victims’ associations, CSOs and LWB Canada nonetheless remain mobilized as they keep striving to find legal solutions to provide victims with the reparation they deserve, over 10 years after the events they suffered originally took place.


To know more


Mr. Almahady Moustapha CISSÉ, President of Collectif Cri de Coeur

Mrs. Danouchka ASSOUMOU, Legal Coordinator, Lawyers without Borders Canada – Mali