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‘Non-enforcement of rulings threatens ECOWAS court’

By Oludare Richards, Abuja
21 October 2021   |   3:30 am
President of ECOWAS Court of Justice, Edward Asante, has warned that the non-enforcement of decisions of the 20-year-old court could imperil its role in the region’s integration and promotion of good governance.

Justice Edward Asante

President of ECOWAS Court of Justice, Edward Asante, has warned that the non-enforcement of decisions of the 20-year-old court could imperil its role in the region’s integration and promotion of good governance.

By its initial protocol, the court has the sole mandate for the interpretation and application of the ECOWAS Treaty and the other community texts.

This mandate was expanded with the 2005 Protocol, which not only granted individuals direct access to the court but also gave it the mandate as a human rights court and a court for community staff as well as granted it an arbitration mandate.

“The court is aware of its key role in the integration process of the community, as the guardian of the community law and protector of human rights, which has become the dominant aspect of its judicial functions,” Asante said at the opening of the 2021 external court session in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

According to the president, only six of the 15 member states have complied with their obligation under Article 24 of the Protocol on the Court that requires that decisions of the court are to be executed by member states in accordance with their Rules of Civil Procedure, particularly the requirement that they “determine the competent national authority for the purpose of receipt and processing of the execution and notify the court accordingly.”

Regrettably, he noted, only “a few member states have complied with this provision,” and used the opportunity to appeal to “the high political and judicial authorities of Cote d’Ivoire to discharge its treaty obligation by appointing such an authority as soon as possible.”

Only Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Togo and Nigeria have designated such authorities for their countries, he disclosed.

Through its “bold decisions on human rights complaints,” Asante said the international community recognised the evolving ECOWAS human rights regime, its unique feature being the absence of the requirement for the exhaustion of local remedies before approaching the regional court.

“Community citizens, therefore, have the option of lodging complaints for human rights violations before their national courts or the ECOWAS Court of Justice without the need to exhaust local remedies,” he added.

To fully play its role as the watchdog of the community’s legal order and maintain the image of a viral and independent regional court, he said the court must cooperate with member states.

The Ivorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and the Diaspora, Mrs. Kandia Camara, who was represented by his Director of Cabinet, Mr. Assomou Kabra, challenged the judges to rise up to the expectations of the citizens, who placed great premium on the court for cases related to the violation of their rights.

The Acting Permanent Representative of ECOWAS, Mr. Jerome Wanyou, said the session would avail community citizens in the country an opportunity to familiarise with the practice of the court.

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