IHRDA, WARDC obtain favourable judgment against Nigeria in “Mary Sunday” domestic violence case

Banjul, 17 May 2018: The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (the ECOWAS Court) 17 May 2018 handed-down its judgment in favour of the complainants in suit noECW/CCJ/APP/26/15WARDC & IHRDA (on behalf of Mary Sunday) v Nigeria.

The case was filed before the ECOWAS Court in August 2015 by the “Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa” (IHRDA) and Nigerian partner “Women Advocate, Research and Documentation Centre” (WARDC), on behalf of Mary Sunday. The case is about domestic violence perpetrated against Mary Sunday by her fiancé, a Nigerian Police Officer, in August 2012, resulting in deformation and incapacitation of the victim. The complainants alleged the State’s failure to effectively investigate the incident, prosecute and punish the perpetrator of the violations.

In its verdict pronounced in Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS Court found Nigeria in violation of Mary’s right to access to justice, and right to have her cause heard. The Court however found Nigeria not to be in violation of her right to freedom from discrimination and gender based violence.

The Court ordered the State of Nigeria to pay Mary financial reparation amounting to Fifteen Million Naira (15,000,0000 Naira – equivalent to about USD 41,500).

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

Mary in 2012 had a heated argument with her fiancé, Isaac Gbanwuan, who brutally beat her and picked up a boiling pot of stew and poured on her. Consequently, Mary suffered extreme burns, lost her ears, has not been able work or walk freely on the streets, as a result of the burns on her body.

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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