COMMUNIQUÉ: IHRDA, APDF sue Mali before ECOWAS Court in gender-based violence case

20 September 2017

The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and Mali-based partner Association pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits des Femmes au Mali (APDF) have recently sued the Republic of Mali before the ECOWAS Court of Justice for failing to protect the matrimonial rights of a Malian woman.

The case is about discrimination and violence perpetrated against Malian woman (Aminata) by her family-in-law, following a stroke attack that rendered her husband unconscious and incapacitated in 2013. Besides physical assault on Aminata, the brothers-in-law confiscated most of her husband’s property, including houses, shops and a bakery, in contravention of article 726 of the Malian Family Code which provides that “The tutelage of a married man cannot be entrusted to another person when his wife lives and enjoys all her mental faculties.” In addition, Aminata’s in-laws, with the complicity of the police in 2015, abducted her unconscious husband to an unknown destination, leaving her alone with their five children whose ages range from 4 to 18 years.

From 2014 to 2016, Aminata sought justice before the Malian courts regarding tutelage of her husband’s property, and obtained a favorable verdict, but which has never been implemented. Also, Aminata’s assault claims before the Office of the Prosecutor at the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Commune I, in Bamako, in October 2014 and August 2015 have never been investigated. Rather, Aminata’s brothers-in-law in January 2017 initiated a divorce action against her in lieu of her husband, whose whereabouts remain unknown. Having lost hope for protection by Malian Courts, Aminata requested legal assistance from IHRDA and APDF.

The case filed before the ECOWAS Court alleges violation of Aminata’s right to property, her right to equal protection by Malian Courts, her right to dignity, her right to have her cause heard; protection of her family and the best interests of her children; and Mali’s failure to provide her effective remedy.

The applicants request the Court to hold the Government of Mali responsible for its role in the human rights violations against Aminata, and order Mali to restore Aminata in her right to manage her family property including the collection of rents for her husband’s houses; to ensure financial compensation and moral reparation for Aminata; and to make structural reforms on its legislations, judiciary and police, aiming at eradicating stereotypes, customs and practices that legitimize violence and discrimination against women.

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