NIAMEY (Reuters) -A West African court ruled on Friday that the ousted president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, and his family were arbitrarily detained and called for a return to democratic rule through his reinstatement.
Bazoum was toppled during a military coup on July 26. He and his family have since been in detention without access to running water or electricity, according to his party and relatives.
The coup was widely condemned, led to sanctions from the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and prompted widespread calls for Bazoum’s release and a return to democratic rule.
Bazoum and his family referred their case to the ECOWAS Court of Justice in September, his lawyers said.
Judge Gberi-Be Ouattara ordered the junta to re-establish constitutional order by reinstating Bazoum, and called for his immediate and unconditional release.
The junta did not immediately react to the verdict.
Bazoum, his wife and son are being held in the presidential residence in the capital Niamey, his lawyers say. They have not been allowed to meet a magistrate or informed about any legal proceedings against them.
Mohamed Seydou Diagne, one of Bazoum’s lawyers, said in a joint statement that the ruling was a “historic” legal condemnation of Niger’s self-appointed military rulers.
The ECOWAS Court of Justice is the regional body’s main jurisdiction and its decisions cannot be appealed. It has given the junta one month to communicate on how it will execute the order, the lawyers said.
Niger’s coup followed two each in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso over the past three years, leaving a swath of territory in the hands of military governments that have moved to distance themselves from former colonial ruler France and other Western allies.
At a summit in Nigeria on Sunday, ECOWAS set up a committee of heads of state was set up to negotiate with Niger’s junta.
(Reporting by Moussa Aksar, Writing by Sofia Christensen,Editing by William Maclean and Timothy Heritage)