[JURIST] The Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official websites] found the government of Niger liable Monday for failing to aid a young woman who was held in slavery for ten years. The West African court ruled under a 2003 law that made the ownership of slaves a criminal offense, and a provision of the 1999 Niger Constitution [text, PDF; in French] which bans slavery. Niger's government will be required to pay 10 million CFA francs ($19,750) in restitution to Hadijatou Mani. Observers say the ECOWAS court's binding ruling will affect every ECOWAS member state may force a number of nations to consider the legality of slavery within their borders, as well as act to protect whose who may be illegally enslaved. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.
Mani was sold into slavery in 1996 and released in 2005. She brought a suit [JURIST report] against the Niger government in April alleging that they failed to protect her as she was sold into and remained in slavery. The suit also challenged the Niger customary law which states that a freed slave remains the wife of her master. The human rights group Anti-Slavery International [advocacy website] estimates that as many as 43,000 people are still held in slavery within Niger. Slavery remains a common practice in many West African nations, particularly affecting women and children.