Niger: ECOWAS Court of Justice Rejects Appeal of Former Niger Prime Minister and Presidential Candidate in Baby Trafficking Case
(Nov. 18, 2019) On October 30, 2019, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rejected the appeal of Hama Amadou against the Republic of Niger in an alleged baby trafficking case.
Amadou was Niger’s prime minister from 1995 to 1996 and again from 2000 to 2007, and was the runner-up candidate to President Mahamadou Issoufou in the 2016 presidential elections. Amadou was arrested in 2015 after being accused of involvement in a baby trafficking ring. He and his wife were among several people alleged to be part of a conspiracy whereby newborn babies were obtained from neighboring Nigeria and then sold to wealthy couples in Niger. In 2016 he was flown to France by the Nigerien government on humanitarian release to seek medical treatment and has remained in exile ever since. Amadou was then tried in abstentia, found guilty of “child concealment” (recel d’enfant) and sentenced to one year in prison in March 2017. Concurrently with appealing his conviction within the Nigerien justice system—an appeal that he lost in 2018—Amadou brought the case before the ECOWAS Court of Justice, arguing that the government of Niger had violated his human rights. Essentially, Amadou’s argument was that his conviction was legally baseless and in violation of the principles of an equitable trial. Specifically, Amadou alleged the Niger had violated articles 9, 14, 15, 17, 23, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and articles 2, 6, 7, 13, and 18 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Court of Justice decided in favor of the Republic of Niger and rejected Amadou’s appeal. The Court found that while it had the competency to judge alleged violations of human rights, it did not have the competency to judge the legality of a conviction by a member state’s criminal justice system. Furthermore, the Court noted the Amadou had already petitioned the ECOWAS Court of Justice in 2015, arguing that the charges and procedures against him were a violation of his human rights. The Court at that time had found that the government of Niger had not acted improperly, and that the procedures against Amadou could proceed. In its decision of October 30, 2019, the Court of Justice found that Amadou was basically trying to re-litigate the 2015 decision: the parties, basic facts, and remedies sought were the same. His claims were therefore precluded by the principle of res judicata.
According to Amadou’s attorneys, the Court of Justice “based itself on an old petition rejected in 2016 without judging the new human rights violations that were committed since 2016,” adding that the entire case was “a political scheme that has no other object than to eliminate Hama Amadou from the next presidential race.”