Eric Ikhilae, Abuja

The ECOWAS Court has ordered the immediate release of 12 Malian soldiers said to have been detained for about five years in their country.

The 12 are said to be former members of a group, the National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) of Mali.

The court’s Vice President, Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara, in a judgment, ordered the Republic of Mali to pay 20 million CFA francs to each of them as compensation for the violation of their fundamental human rights.

In a statement, Elohor Ovadje of the ECOWAS Court said the court, in the judgment delivered on November 10, 2020, held that Mali was liable for violating the rights of General Amadou Haya Sanogo, Captain Issa Tangara, and 11 others to a fair trial, to be tried within a reasonable time, to a presumption of innocence, to liberty and to freedom from arbitrary detention.

The court however rejected the applicants’ claim for the violation of their right to human dignity and held that their claim in that regard was unfounded.

It ordered the respondent to stop the violations and submit a report on the implementation/execution of the judgment to the court within six months.

The court equally ordered Mali to bear all costs of the suit marked: ECW/CCJ/CCJ/20/19.

Lawyers to the applicants’ Issa Coulibaly and Mariam Diawara had while arguing their clients’ case on May 3, 2019, claimed that the applicants, who are former members of the CNRDRE, were victims of rights violations and sued for 500 million CFA francs as individual damages for the prejudice suffered.

They submitted that the Applicants were indicted for various offenses including kidnapping, assassination, and complicity in 2013 and that the pre-trial process was marred by irregularities amounting to the violations.

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They also submitted that the Applicants were detained over three years before their case file was transferred to the general prosecutor from the cabinet of the investigative judge and that they were in detention over five years without a date for judgment or sentence.

Respondent’s lawyer, Issaka Keita urged the court to reject the applicants’ claims, arguing that the interim order for the applicants’ committal pending the hearing of the matter on its merit did not constitute rights violation. Moreover, he averred that the national court has ordered another expert’s report on the findings at the request of the applicants and that no criminal sentence has been ordered.

Keita further argued that the applicants were not victims of arbitrary detention because of the complexity and criminal nature of their case (bordering on kidnapping, assassination, and complicity) pending before a national court.

He, therefore, urged the court to declare the allegations of violations as non-established and the reliefs sought by the applicants as unfounded.

The Nation