The President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Justice Edward Amoako Asante has challenged Member States of the Community to expedite the process for establishing the Appellate Chamber of the court in order to enable parties exercise their right of appeal inherent in their fundamental human right.

In a speech at the opening of the 2019 international conference of the Community Court of Justice on Monday, 21st October 2019 in Accra, the President said such by establishing such a chamber, the region will be responding to the ‘clamour’ for such a chamber and help strengthen public confidence in Court.

The President said the theme of the conference, Economic Integration of West Africa: challenges and prospect,’ was designed to ‘focus attention on economic agenda of ECOWAS’ as the principal legal organ of the Community primarily charged with interpreting and applying the Revised Treaty and the annexed Protocol and Conventions, particularly its role facilitating the integration process.

“This conference offers us a great opportunity to interrogate the challenges and prospects for our integration process as over the years ECOWAS has adopted a large body of laws ranging from Protocols, Conventions, Supplementary Acts and Regulations to subsidiary instruments on various subjects geared towards the realization of our integration objectives whose implementation needed to be facilitated by a strong and independent regional court,’ the President noted.

“ It is noteworthy that these legal texts are geared towards the economic integration agenda of the Community, “ the President urged those with access to the Court to exercise this right by ‘approaching the Court whenever necessary in order to drive the development of ECOWAS Community Law.’

While noting with pride the ‘far reaching achievements recorded by the Court in the protection of the human rights of ECOWAS citizens and holding Member States accountable for their Treaty obligations under the various international human rights instruments, ‘ the President said “ we must not sight of the court’s primary mandate related to its role in the integration process.’

Justice Asante explained the participation of Member States in the conference as an acknowledgement that as the ‘most important stakeholders in the integration process, their political will is a necessary factor in the achievement of Community objectives.”

While the President acknowledged the sovereignty of Member States, he added that ‘we cannot disregard the legal implications of the supranationality of ECOWAS to act in the common interests of the 15 Member States in certain spheres.

The President also spoke about the challenges confronting the Court, mainly the reduction in the number of judges from seven to five contrary to the provisions of the initial Protocol on the court which has increased their workload; the change the structure of their tenure that has denied the court of the institutional memory inherent in a staggered tenure; the inadequate staffing of the Court’s language services and accommodation.

He expressed concern at the ‘unsatisfactory enforcement of the judgments of the Court’ due mainly to the non appointment of the competent national authority for the enforcement by 10 of the Member States as this ‘erodes public confidence in the Court.’

Justice Asante assured that the court will continue to appeal to those Member States that have not done so to comply with their Treaty obligations to designate such an authority for the enforcement of the judgments of the Court in accordance with their Rules of Civil Procedure.

Some 142 participants, including Judges and staff of the Court, Chief Justices of ECOWAS Member States, members of the academia, Heads of ECOWAS Institutions, Special Representatives of ECOWAS in Member States, Heads of National Units of ECOWAS Member States and development partners, are participating in the four day conference.