The ECOWAS Court has dismissed,  for lack of jurisdiction, an application filed by a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), “Changement Social Benin”, challenging the decision of the Republic of Benin’s Constitutional Court relating to the enforceability of the decisions of the regional court by the country.

The Abuja-based Court ruled that the application did not fall within the human rights jurisdiction conferred upon it neither by its initial Protocol nor by the amendments in the Supplementary Protocol.

The CSO had approached the Court, challenging decision DCC No. 20-434 of the Benin Constitutional Court which ruled that Supplementary Protocol A/SP/1/01/05 was not applicable to the country because it had not been by the National Assembly as provided under the country’s constitution. The Constitutional Court also held that in complying with decisions of the ECOWAS Court based on the provisions of the Protocol, previous governments were in violation of the country’s Constitution.  It therefore declared as null and void, actions emanating from the implementation of the Supplementary Protocol A/SP/1/01/05 in the country. 

“Changement Social Benin” had urged the Court to declare that the Supplementary Protocol A/SP.01/01/05 was binding on the State of Benin and that the country was obligated to execute all the decisions of the Court based on the provision of the protocol. It also prayed the Court to declare that Decision No. 20-434 of the Constitutional Court violated the right to fair trial and reparation as provided in international human rights instruments to which the country is a signatory.

Delivering the judgment of the Court, Justice Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves said that the first request of the Applicant was for the Court to determine if the decision taken by the country’s constitutional Court contradicted the provisions of the Supplementary Protocol of 2005 and the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty.

The Court reiterated its long-held position that it was not an appellate court for decisions of national courts and therefore ruled itself incompetent to deal with the matter.

On the other two requests contained in the application, namely the violation of the rights to fair trial and the violation of the rights to reparation, the Court found out that the Applicant referred to potential and abstract violations and dismissed them, noting that before and during the processes leading to the decision of the Constitutional Court, there was no violation of human rights.

“This Court”, said Justice Gonçalves, “recalls that in addition to not being responsible for sanctioning the decisions of national courts, it is only responsible for admitting cases before national courts in which human rights violations were alleged during the course of the process.”

The Court held that it has  jurisdiction in cases where the Respondent State enacted legislation or implemented measures based on such legislation, which would result in violations of human rights. However, the Court said that the Constitutional Court of Benin did not approve any law and the judgment it delivered did not prevent any citizen of Benin from accessing the country’s courts and from appealing against any decisions that are unfavorable to them.

In suit ECW/CCJ/APP/12/21, “Changement Social Benin” had relied on the Supplementary Protocol A/SP/1/01/05 / which provides that the said Protocol entered into force on a provisional basis as soon as it was signed by the Heads of State and Government. Moreover, it said the Supplementary Protocol would enter into force as soon as ratified by at least nine (9) signatory States, including in Member States which have simply signed.   

The Respondent State, which asked for more time after receiving the initiating application, neither filed a response nor participated in the hearings.

Also on the panel for the suit were Justices Gberi-bè Ouattara (presiding) and Dupe Atoki.