The West African Court declared on Friday that the detention of the ousted president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, and his family was arbitrary. The court called for the immediate reinstatement of Bazoum and demanded his unconditional release. Bazoum was ousted in a military coup on July 26, and he, along with his family, has been in detention without access to basic amenities such as running water and electricity.
The military coup that led to Bazoum’s removal faced widespread condemnation, resulting in sanctions from the Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas). Calls for the release of Bazoum and the restoration of democratic rule echoed internationally. Bazoum and his family brought their case before the Ecowas Court of Justice in September.
Judge Gberi-Be Ouattara, in a historic legal condemnation of Niger’s self-appointed military rulers, ordered the junta to re-establish constitutional order by reinstating Bazoum. The court’s decision, coming from the regional body’s main jurisdiction, is final and cannot be appealed. The junta is given a one-month deadline to communicate how it intends to execute the court’s order.
Bazoum, his wife, and son are reportedly held in the presidential residence in Niamey, the capital of Niger. They have been denied the opportunity to meet with a magistrate or informed about any legal proceedings against them.
Mohamed Seydou Diagne, one of Bazoum’s lawyers, expressed that the ruling is a historic legal condemnation of Niger’s self-appointed military rulers. The Ecowas Court of Justice, through its decisive judgment, aims to restore democratic norms in the region.
Niger’s coup is part of a broader trend in West Africa, with neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso also witnessing military takeovers in recent years. The Ecowas summit held in Nigeria on Sunday established a committee of heads of state tasked with negotiating with Niger’s junta. The regional bloc is pushing for a swift return to constitutional order after the military seized power in July.
In a related development, Togo’s Foreign Minister, Robert Dussey, visited Niger to negotiate with the junta on behalf of Ecowas. Dussey announced that Niger’s military leaders have agreed on a plan for restoring democratic rule, which will be presented to Ecowas for approval. The international community continues to closely monitor the situation, emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic principles in the region.