Court of Justice of ECOWAS Rules in Favor of Mary Sunday

Received via email from New Media Advocacy Project:

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States Rules in Favor of Mary Sunday

Banjul, The Gambia: ECOWAS Orders Nigeria to Pay Mary Sunday Equivalant of $138,000

Last year, NMAP partnered with the Nigeria-based Woman Advocates Research & Documentation Centre (WARDC) and the Gambia-based Institute for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (IHRDA) to fight perceptions that domestic violence isn’t as serious of a crime as other human rights violations. In Nigeria, the government has repeatedly failed to investigate domestic violence cases, creating a culture of systemic silence for women who have experienced abuse.

One such case was Mary Sunday. Mary was brutalized and set on fire by her fiance, who is a Corporal within the Nigerian Police Force. She was unable to get justice because the police were unwilling to investigate one of their own. WARDC and IHRDA took Mary’s case to the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice to seek justice on her behalf.

Impunity for perpetrators of domestic violence is widespread in Nigeria. Our video Breaking the Silence: The Failure of the State was created to help WARDC make the case within Nigeria that failure to investigate domestic violence is a widespread and systemic problem while Mary’s case was working its way through ECOWAS.

We’re happy to report that on May 17th, Mary got the justice she so badly deserved.

WARDC and IRHDA alleged the State’s failure to effectively investigate the incident, prosecute and punish the perpetrator of the violations. The ECOWAS Court handed down its judgment in favor of WARDC and IHRDA on behalf of Mary.

In its verdict pronounced in Abuja, Nigeria, the Court found Nigeria in violation of Mary’s right to access to justice, and right to have her cause heard.

The Court ordered the State of Nigeria to pay Mary financial reparation amounting to Fifty Million Naira (50,000,0000 Naira – equivalent to about USD 138,000).

Mary couldn’t hold back her emotions following the verdict, saying, “I have suffered so much pain since the incident happened, and had never known I would obtain justice someday. I don’t know how to thank the lawyers who took it upon themselves to give me hopes and assist me in seeking justice.”

We’re so happy that Mary was finally heard and we hope this ruling helps start a new chapter for women’s rights in Nigeria.

The Executive Directors for IHRDA and WARDC, Gaye Sowe and Dr. Abiola Akiyode, respectively, have commended the ECOWAS Court decision, which they describe as a progressive and important jurisprudence for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Nigeria, the West Africa sub-region and Africa as a whole.

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