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Reduction Of Judges Impedes Our Effectiveness – ECOWAS Court

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has decried the reduction of the number of judges attached to the court from seven to five.

The President of the court, Justice Edward Amoaka Asante made this disclosure on Wednesday at the 10th Judicial Retreat of the court at Goshen City in Nasarawa State.

He said the reduction, alongside the delay in the translation of court processes into the working languages of the court, impede the effectiveness of the court. The sub-regional body with 15-member states, has English, French and Portuguese as official languages.

“This is particularly poignant with the increased number of cases on the court’s docket, currently at 107 pending cases, a number that is expected to increase based on the trend,” he said.

Continuing, Asante said the court decided 318 cases comprising 190 judgments, 105 rulings, 18 revision judgments and five advisory opinions between April 2004 and October 2018.

Also speaking, the Chief Registrar of the court, Tony Anene-Maidoh explained that the objective of the four-days retreat was to introduce the new members and judges and executive assistants to the jurisprudence of the court as developed by former members between 2003 and 2018.

The new judges of the court are: the president, Edward Amoako Asante (Ghana); vice president, Gberi-Be Ouattara (Cote d’Ivoire); members- Dupe Atoki (Nigeria); Keikura Bangura (Sierra Leone) and Silva Moreira Costa (Cape Verde).

 
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DIGITAL CASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR THE ECOWAS COURT TO…

The new digital case management system being developed by the Community Court of Justice is aimed at computerizing the Court’s case management system which will enable the online filing of cases. This was presented to the new Judges of the Court during their 7th Retreat held in October,2018 in Nassarawa State.

The system will also be demonstrated to the judges to enable them make input towards its finalization.

The three-day retreat, the first for the judges and which is on the theme ‘Strengthening the ECOWAS Court of Justice,’ also enabled the judges discuss the 2019 draft budget of the Court. The budget was adopted during the Administration and Budget Retreat of the Court held between 22 and 26th July 2018, before the swearing in and assumption duty of the new judges.

Two other presentations on Adjournments, Stakeholders and the Image of the Court as well as the Rules of Procedure of the Court was made during the retreat.

The new judges, who were sworn in on 31st July 2018 for a four-year tenure include the President, Honorable Justice Edward Amoako Asante (Ghana), and the Vice President, Honorable Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara (Cote d’Ivoire), both of which were elected for a two year term.

The others include Hon Justice Dupe Atoki (Nigeria); Hon. Justice Keikura Bangura (Sierra Leone); and Hon. Justice Januaria Silva Moreira Costa (Cabo Verde).

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ECOWAS Court Laments Human Rights Abuse in Nigeria, Ghana,…

The President of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) Court of Justice, Justice Edward Asante, has described as “serious” the issue of human rights abuse in Nigeria and Ghana, among others, particularly the attack on journalists by some governments through their various state apparatus.

Asante also lamented the poor level of enforcement of the decisions of the ECOWAS Court by member-states in the sub-region while calling on the civil society organisations (CSOs) to develop mechanism that would compel government of their various countries to comply with the judgment of the court.

The president stated this at the weekend while receiving a network of lawyers, human rights activists from 9 West African countries namely: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone under the auspices of Public Interest Lawyering Initiative for West Africa (PILIWA), at the Community Court in Abuja.

“We know it is a very serious issue in our continent. Even till date, there are governments and presidents still inflicting bad things on their citizenry and it is our duty here to uphold their rights, particularly those of journalists and other people who are being bastardized because they are speaking the truth doing the right thing trying to report government who are doing bad things”, he said.

He said the ECOWAS Court was established initially to tackle issues only between member states but, following the high level of abuse of rights of citizens by governments of member States, the regional body in its supplementary protocol of 2005 expanded the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court to now adjudicate on human rights violations in the subregion.

Justice Asante assured that the court will always do its best to deal expeditiously in the interest of justice particularly that of the human rights cases that has brought his guest.

On the issue of disobedience of the orders of the court by government of some member states, Justice Asante remarked that the development of not curtailed now would eventually lead to the death of the court.
He disclosed that so far, only about three or four countries have taking the initiative to enforce the judgment of the Court and in most cases, it is not all the judgments they enforce.

He said: “The court would rely heavily on institutions and civil society organizations to help propagate the ills governments are doing to judgments of the court because the court.

“It is our wish that the civil society, especially professional groups, lawyers, would bear on the governments and various institutions so that they will comply with provisions of the amended protocol, to set up authorities in their governments and legal systems to enforce our judgments.

While noting that the court will be commencing the new legal year with about 106 cases, he disclosed that 12 among them are due for judgment by November this year.

Country Focal Person, PILIWA Nigeria, Barrister Chima Williams, said the group is interested in plans by the Court to take steps towards making provisions for enforcement of decisions which PILIWA can help amplify.

“As we come from different countries in West Africa, it will be our duty to equally talk to our governments to say the rules for this court is due for review. Citizens who get judgments here should have it enforced.

The group believes the ECOWAS Court is key to promoting and protecting human rights in the region, given the strategic roles the court has been playing over the years in bridging the gap in our regional, national laws and judicial systems.

Williams explained that part of the purpose of the groups visit was to urge the court to consider a process of reviewing how it can give more access to communities across the region.

It also wants the Community Court to expand its jurisdictional reach and enforcement mechanisms to guarantee that citizens who look to the court when they are denied access to justice in their national jurisdictions are not left more confused after securing erudite judgments from the court.

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COMMUNITY COURT TO LAUNCH ITS INAUGURAL OUTREACH PROGRAMME IN…

The ECOWAS Court has unveiled a historic outreach programme that will enable it engage with the region’s citizens as part of its campaign to improve public awareness and access to the Court whose role in the protection of  human rights has become it defining mandate.

The phased outreach programme will be launched next year in communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia, the President of the Court, Honorable Justice Edward Asante told a delegation of Public Interest Lawyering Initiative for West Africa (PIWA) during its visit to the CourtFriday, 19thOctober 2018 .

Justice Asante said the programme, the first by the Court, will complement the Court’s existing public information platforms as well as sensitization campaigns, which are mainly focused on radio and television programmes with an advocacy component.

He expressed concern about the poor enforcement of the Court’s decisions by Member States ‘and our wish that the Civil society would help in pressuring the States to comply with their obligations under provisions of the Protocol on the Court relating to the enforcement of the decisions of the Court,’ that requires them to designate focal points for the purpose and enforce in accordance with their rules of civil procedure.

Information available at the Court’s Registry showed that 28 decisions have been enforced while there is no record of enforcement for the remaining 53 decisions.

‘A Court can’t be effective except its decisions are enforced,’ the President said, noting that the success of the Court is attributable to its independence, strength and insistence on holding Member States accountable for their Treaty obligations.

Earlier, the Nigerian focal point of PIWA, Prince Chima Williams, said the visit was to familiarize the members with the dynamics, processes and decisions of the Court as part its engagement with the Court.

He assured the President of the group’s support, using its network, in the area of the enforcements of its decisions and the expansion of the access by community citizens.

Later, the Chief Registrar, Mr Tony Anene-Maidoh made a presentation on the various aspects of the court, its mandate and jurisprudence followed by a question and answer session.

Members of PIWA are drawn from Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Also included in the delegation were officials representing Non-governmental Organisations (NGO’s) from South Africa and the United States of America.

 

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ECOWAS Set To Sanction Members For Disobeying Court Judgments

President of the ECOWAS court of justice, Justice Edward Asante, made this disclosure while declaring open a regional capacity building workshop for law enforcement agencies on promoting best practices on structure, investigation and techniques of criminal asset seizures, freezing, confiscation, recoveries, management in compliance with United Nations security council resolutions in Abuja.

Answering questions from journalists on the flagrant disobedience of judgments of the ECOWAS court by some member States, Asante stated that flagrant disobedience of judgments of the ECOWAS court by some member States soon come to an end as heads of states have reached a decision to sanction erring members. “Heads of States met and decided that member states should set up focal points in their various countries that would be responsible for the enforcement of the judgment and that has been put in place except that they have not started the regulations.

“We hope that they would start it and there is also sanction for those who do not embark on that, so I think in the very near future that would be carried out so that they would enforce the judgment for the court to have its prestige”.

While commending GIABA for being proactive in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing in the region, he however called for the immediate revision of the status of GIABA to make it more effective. “the established architecture of GIABA on the 10thof December 1999 by the authority of heads of states and governments of ECOWAS is outdated and woefully inadequate to meet the challenges of today; and much less those of tomorrow, especially with the emergence of multiple complex crimes worldwide.

GIABA’s director general, Kimelabalou Aba that was represented by the director programmes and projects, Buno Nduka, remarked that, “GIABA member states continue to record low number of confiscation of tainted property. This is due to dearth of expertise to identify, trace, seize, freeze and confiscate proceeds of crime”.

He reiterated that the workshop, which is the third, is aimed at building the capacity of participants to use modern techniques to identify, trace, recover and manage assets related to money laundering and associated predicate offences, and the financing of terrorism.

On his part, the director, Nigeria financial intelligence unit (NFIU), Francis Usani, called on member states to put relevant laws in place to checkmate money laundering and terrorism financing, adding that, when criminals are allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime, they become empowered and sophisticated in their operations.He said, “criminal asset confiscation and recoveries become a more critical and important element in the fight against crime, because when you take the benefit of crime from the criminal, the motivation to commit the crime diminishes”.

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ECOWAS To Strengthen Collaboration With US On Risk Management

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it is strengthening its collaboration with the United States over risk management in the region through the establishment of the Early Warning Systems.

This was made known by the president of the ECOWAS Commission Mr Jean Claude Kassi Brou  on Saturday after a meeting with the Assistant Secretary of States for African Affairs for the US, Mr Tibor Nagy.

According to him, the US has collaborated with the region to establish early warning systems and centres in five of the fifteen-member commission.

The commission is, however, looking to take the partnership further towards establishing the system as well as centers in the remaining member countries.

He believes the system will help the region in all its human endeavours such as trade, health, agriculture and risk factors such as terrorism and herders/farmers conflicts.

“We used this opportunity to discuss one project that the US is really supporting ECOWAS on. It is the Early Warning System.

“With the financial, technical support of the US government, we were able to open in five countries and now we have discussed the possibility to increase because the idea is really to allow all the 15-member countries have this mechanism because it is a system that will help support, protect and manage all the risk of human activity.

“Whether it is security, health, and all other activities that can generate risk and affect the people of ECOWAS, it will be managed by this early warning mechanism,” Kassi Brou said.