Attempt to introduce rule on exhaustion of domestic remedies disheartening – ECOWAS Court President

  Mon, 20 May 2024
ECOWAS Attempt to introduce rule on exhaustion of domestic remedies disheartening    ECOWAS Court President

President of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Edward Amoako Asante, has expressed concern about efforts being made to amend the Protocol on the Court to introduce the rule on exhaustion of domestic remedies.

He said the attempt to re-negotiate the mandate of the Court was disheartening and posing the greatest existential threat to the Court.

“It is also a grave access to justice issue. If this succeeds, it will drastically reduce access to the ECOWAS Court of Justice by Community Citizens, and other persons living in the territories of Member States who may be victims of human rights violations,” Justice Asante said at the closing session of the ECOWAS Court International Conference in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

“This will weaken the Court, and it is definitely not in the best interest of the Court or the Community Citizens and should therefore be resisted,” he added.

Held on the theme: “Enhancing the Role, Relevance and Effectiveness of the ECOWAS Court of Justice through the Strengthening of Synergies between the Court and National

Stakeholders'', the conference focused attention on the role and relevance of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in the ECOWAS integration legal landscape and the need to build synergies with national stakeholders, particularly the national courts of Member States.

Justice Asante said the Court was glad the Conference rejected the attempt to introduce the rule into the normative framework of the Court in its recommendations.

He appealed to all participants, and the Civil Society in all Member States to take necessary steps through advocacy with relevant stakeholders in their home countries, to ensure that the proposed amendment, which is very imminent, did not pass.

Justice Asante also urged the Member States to take necessary steps to domesticate the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and the ECOWAS Protocols and to enact enabling laws that will enable national courts to play a more effective role in the integration process.

“The time has also come for the relevant stakeholders to take steps to harmonize the legal and judicial systems of the Community,” he said.

Justice Asante stressed the urgent need for collaboration between the ECOWAS Court of Justice and national courts and for judicial dialogue between the two court systems, adding the ECOWAS Court of Justice is not in competition with the national courts of Member States.

“We are a Court established by Treaty and our mandate is clearly prescribed by the Protocol on the Court. We are not an appellate Court over national courts, and we don't have the power to review in abstracto, the laws of Member States,” he said.

“As an institution of ECOWAS, we have a duty to maintain good synergies between the Court and national stakeholders of Member States for the benefit of the Court and ECOWAS Community citizens,” he added.

He said the ECOWAS Court would continue to seek a cordial and harmonious relationship with the national courts and explore other avenues, including judicial dialogue, to deepen the fraternal relations between the Court and the national courts.

Justice Asante appealed to the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS to restore the Membership of the Court to seven independent judges and to restore the tenure of

the judges of the Court to five years renewable for another term of five years as was prescribed in the initial Protocol on the Court.

“There is also the need for Member States to comply with the judgments of the Court in good faith. We are also urging the three Member States that are yet to appoint their competent national authorities to do so without further delay,” he added.

Vice President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Justice Gbéri-Bè Ouattara, in expressing gratitude to the Sierra Leone's government, participants and speakers said the conference provided an excellent opportunity for a give-and-take, in terms of sharing knowledge and knowhow.

He said the various contributions made by the presenters to the discussions enabled the participants to share different forms of experience from different angles, which shed great light on several issue, at the end of the day, from the diversity of views expressed.

“This method of positive intellectual confrontation is hereby recognised as having added great value to the conference deliberations, because of the clarity it brought to legal scholarship, from the contributions made in that wise. We are grateful, in that sense, for the originality of thought brought to bear from the texts submitted and discussed,” Justice Gbéri-Bè Ouattara said.

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS Court has presented its Law Reports to various Sierra Leone's institutions.