A judge of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Hon Justice Dupe Atoki has urged citizens of Enugu State to seize the opportunity offered by the Court to enforce the protection of their human rights in all its manifestations.

“The Court seems far away in the mind of litigants, but at the same time it is so close and the Court wishes to disabuse the minds of victims of human rights violations who see the distance as a barrier to availing themselves of opportunity offered by the Court for the protection of such rights that this should not be the case,” she emphasised.

Justice Atoki, who spoke at a press conference in Enugu to round up a five-day sensitization campaign of the Court in the State, took advantage of a question posed about the recent closure of Nigeria’s land borders with its neighbours to encourage those who felt it amounted to a violation of their rights to approach the court.

She also encouraged civil society organizations to improve the defence of human rights by supporting or bringing cases of violations before it, as this would contribute to strengthening the culture of respect for human rights in the region.

She praised the case file management system of the Court as one of the best because of the processing time which was one of the fastest compared to some other jurisdictions, attributing this to the Court’s determination to deliver decisions with minimum delay in recognition that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’

Reacting to questions about the implementation of the Court’s decisions, Justice Atoki revealed that about half of the decisions rendered by the Court have been executed by Member States and that there are texts that provide for sanctions for the non-execution of the decisions of the Court.

She explained that there were no conflicts of jurisdiction with the national courts as they have different mandates and powers, noting that the ECOWAS Court of Justice only deals with cases relating to human rights, disputes of the Community’s civil service and disputes between Member States relating to the interpretation of Community texts and also has an arbitration mandate.

“ The Court does not sit on appeal on the decisions of national courts even though the parties may complain to the Court before or after exhaustion of the national remedies about the human rights component of their cases,’ she explained.

In this sense, she said the Court provides an additional layer of intervention for the protection of their human rights and justice.

Earlier, the delegation of the Court had a working session with Judges of the State during which the Chief Judge of the State, Hon. Justice Priscilla Emehelu, commended the Court for undertaking the ‘enlightening programme’ which among others, have reassured the State that there would be no conflict of competences with national jurisdictions.

The sensitization mission in Enugu State is part of the annual plan of the Court to promote it self. Earlier this month, the Court visited Lagos State in Nigeria and other Member States in West Africa for the same purpose.