ECOWAS court pledges protection for 750,000 stateless persons
PRESIDENT of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Her Lordship Honorable Justice Maria Do Céu Silva Monteiro has pledged the court’s commitment to protecting the fundamental human rights of the 750,000 stateless persons that reside in West Africa, under its mandate, which was expanded in 2005 to protect the rights of ECOWAS citizens.
Justice Monteiro, who gave this assurance at an ECOWAS Ministerial meeting on Statelessness held in Abidjan recently, stated the court’s determination to faithfully exercise this mandate in order to ensure the protection of the human rights of the citizens, noting that discrimination against stateless persons should be viewed as a violation of their human rights which can be the subject of litigation.
A statement from the ECOWAS Court, read that the ECOWAS Court president described the 1982 regional Protocol defining community citizenship in ECOWAS as ‘outdated’ and called for its revision taking cognizance of the evolving regional and international dynamics of citizenship.
According to her, some member states have amended their constitution to permit dual citizenship, which is not recognized by the Protocol. “Moreover, by making community citizenship ‘subservient to the national laws of Member States who are actually the violators of the rights of stateless persons,’ the Protocol has become inappropriate as a tool for addressing statelessness,” the statement read.
The Honourable Justice was quoted to have praised the UN High Commission for Refugees, which jointly organized the ministerial meeting with the ECOWAS Commission, for constituting an important voice for the promotion and protection of human rights particularly in Africa.
Describing the right to nationality as critical to the realization of other fundamental human rights, the president lamented that despite this recognition and various international declarations on human rights, an estimated 10 million people remain stateless around the world.
The President led the court’s delegation, which included Vice President, Honorable Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, to the meeting, which adopted a Declaration on the Prevention, Reduction and Elimination of Statelessness.
The Declaration contains 25 commitments and highlights in particular the necessity for ECOWAS member states to generate concrete information on the causes of statelessness and the number and profile of stateless persons in the region.
At least 750,000 people are stateless or at risk of statelessness in the region and are subject to life in limbo, with limited access to education, healthcare, and employment.
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