The Speakers at the opening ceremony of the international conference organized by the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Lome, Togo to celebrate its 20th anniversary have decried the ambivalence of Member States to the enforcement of its decisions and warned that it portends grave danger for the protection of human rights and the promotion of peace and security.“All laws must be obeyed and all court rulings must be adhered to as failure to do so has the propensity to drift any society unto anarchy,” the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohamed Tunis, said in his speech at the opening of the conference on Monday, November 21, 2021.
Under Article 24 (4) of the 2005 Supplementary Protocol on the Court, Member States are required to determine and communicate to the Court the competent national authority for the receipt and processing of the execution of the judgments of the Court.
Only six Member States- Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Togo- have designated their competent authority for the enforcement of the decisions of the Court.
He warned that this has the potential to damage the reputation of the Community which set up the Court to ensure the observance of law and of the principles of equity in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Treaty and other subsidiary legal instruments of the Community.
“This in the minds of the framers would ensure the fair, impartial and independent administration of justice so that each citizen is treated with respect, dignity, fairness and receive a fair treatment in the application of the law,” the statement by the ECOWAS Court quoted the Speaker as saying.
“Sadly this is not the case as state actors now decide which ruling or opinion of the court to honour, a situation that does not just undermine the integrity of the Court, but creates a reputational risk to ECOWAS,” he said, adding that the Court has during its 20 years, continued to act as a beacon of regional justice manifested in its various decisions that have “led to a myriad of changes in law and practice across the region”.
He therefore called for an urgent meeting of the region’s Attorneys General, as a matter of grave concern to the citizens and the international community, in order to address this ugly trend of the selective enforcement of the decisions of the Court.
In his speech, the President of the African Bar Association, Mr. Hannibal Uwaifo, urged ECOWAS Member States to own up to their Treaty obligations under the doctrine of Pacta sunt servanda, which means that agreements must be kept.
“It is therefore necessary for governments in the ECOWAS region to keep their obligations which they entered into with regards to the ECOWAS Court, which includes the obligation to implement the judgments of the Court in their different states as they would enforce judgments and rulings of their municipal courts without further procedures,” he said.
According to Uwaifo, the flagrant violations of the Court’s judgments is threatening to ridicule the Court and bring it into disrepute, citing the ‘most notorious’ as the recent violent violation of the Court’s judgment with regard to the case of the Venezuelan citizen illegally detained in Cape Verde.
The conference was declared open by the Minister of Justice and Legislation of the Republic of Togo, Mr. Pius Kokouvi Agbetomey, who represented the President as well as the President of the ECOWAS Commission and the Speaker of the regional Parliament among others.