Niger’s ousted Bazoum appeals to West Africa bloc court to free him

Bazoum’s lawyer has asked the ECOWAS court to order Niger’s military rulers to end his ‘arbitrary arrest’ and hand power over to him.

Ousted Niger President Mohamed Bazoum at a meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (not seen) at the presidential palace in Niamey on May 2, 2022 [Issouf Sanogo/AFP]

The coup-toppled president of Niger has appealed to a court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to free him, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown by members of his presidential guard on July 26 and has been detained at home with his wife and child since.

He filed a lawsuit with the West African bloc’s court based in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on September 18, said his Senegalese lawyer Seydou Diagne.

The lawsuit invokes his “arbitrary arrest” and “violation of freedom of movement”, Diagne said.

“We request… in view of the violation of political rights, that the State of Niger be ordered to immediately restore constitutional order by handing over power to President Bazoum, who must continue to exercise it until the end of his mandate.”

ECOWAS which imposed sanctions against Niger, has warned that it could intervene militarily in Niger if diplomatic efforts to return Bazoum to power fail, as a last resort.

Niger’s coup took place in a region wracked by violence from armed groups, following overthrows in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso. This September, the three countries signed a mutual defence pact to become the Alliance of Sahel States and help each other against possible threats of armed rebellion or external aggression.

If the court rules in favour of Bazoum, “Niger has the legal obligation to execute the decision”, Diagne said.

Niger’s coup leaders have declared their intention to “prosecute” the democratically elected Bazoum for “high treason and undermining internal and external security”.

On Wednesday the European Union (EU) reiterated its support for ECOWAS’s position and made a fresh call “for the immediate and unconditional release” of Bazoum and his family.

“The EU position is clear and unchanged: The EU does not recognise authorities emanating from the putsch. President Bazoum remains the sole legitimate president of Niger,” EU foreign affairs spokesperson Nabila Massrali said.

The remarks came a day after the EU ambassador to Niamey, Salvador Pinto da Franca, was summoned by Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine.

Source: News Agencies