The ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja on Friday dismissed a suit challenging the legality of August 18, 2020, sanctions imposed on Mali following the military coup against President Ibrahim Keita.
A three-man panel of the court led by Justice Dupe Atoki dismissed the suit, shortly after hearing interlocutory applications filed by two Malian associations seeking a suspension of the sanctions, and an accelerated hearing of the main suit.
The plaintiffs, Malian Coalition and the Consumers Association of Mali, both registered in the country, had in the suit marked ECW/CCJ/APP/36/20, claimed that the President of the Commission acted ultra vires in imposing the sanctions.
They argued that the procedure was not in conformity with the relevant ECOWAS texts under which sanctions should be brought against member states for failure to honour their obligations to the Community as this is reserved for Heads of State and Government of the Community.
At the hearing of the interlocutory applications earlier on Friday, the plaintiffs represented by Alfa Habib Kone, Abdrahamane Diallo and Oumar Tounkara, argued that the sanctions violated various rights of Malian citizens to free movement in the region.
The defendants sued in the suit – the ECOWAS Commission and the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, one of the countries implementing the sanctions via closure of borders against Mali, also opposed the suit and urged the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to institute the action.
Ruling, Justice Atoki, who delivered the lead decision of the court, held that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the subject matter of the suit, which is the statement credited to the President of the ECOWAS Commission announcing the imposition of the sanctions.
The court, which had earlier observed that no reference was made in the statement to show that it was based on the decision of the authority of the Heads of States, held that the statement could not be situated in any context that the court was statutorily empowered to adjudicate on.
She held that while the court was not persuaded by the arguments canvassed by the ECOWAS Commission, the court “cannot situate the statement of the President of the Commission either as a decision, recommendation, opinion or a directive” that the court could adjudicate on.