Hon Justice Edward Amoako Asante, President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice has emphasised the need for sensitisation of citizens on their (fundamental) rights. He made the assertion during a courtesy visit of some Members of Parliament from Kenya National Assembly to the Seat of the Court on Thursday, November 9, 2023.

The delegation led by Hon Peter Orero and made up of members of the Committee on Regional Integration of the 13th Parliament of the Kenya National Assembly said that the visit to the Court formed part of their weeklong study visit on the mode of operation of ECOWAS Institutions including the Court of Justice, and various departments in the ECOWAS Commission.

Hon Orero added that the committee embarked on a study visit of different economic blocks including the West African block – ECOWAS, and that they were at the Court to gain insight on its operations, judicial activities and programmes.

In his remarks, Justice Asante commended the delegation for the initiative while noting the importance of such discussions and experience sharing.

Justice Asante gave an overview of the Court from inception and stressed the success recorded by the Court with the expansion of the jurisdiction of the Court in 2005 with the amendment of the 1991 Protocol on the Court.

He explained that the 2005 Protocol allowed individuals to access the Court and empowered the Court to examine certain cases of human rights violation occurring in the region.

In addition, President Asante indicated that the Court has jurisdiction to rule on disputes relating to the free movement of goods and persons, and the right of establishment. Referring to an instance in Ghana when there was an alleged breach of freedom of establishment, he lamented that such matter was not brought before the Court.

“The Court only examines cases brought before it for determination. Whereas citizens and organisations have not approached the Court to enforce their rights in relation to regional integration laws, due to lack of awareness of the existence of the laws and their rights.”

He attributed the situation to lack of knowledge of the laws and their application, adding that “there is need for education of citizens on ECOWAS Laws and their rights.”

He also elaborated on various ECOWAS Laws aimed at strengthening regional integration including Immigration laws and Customs laws.

He said that the Court carries out media programmes and sensitisation missions in Member States aimed at creating awareness about the Court, its activities and how to access it.

Regarding judicial activities, Justice Asante stated that to examine cases brought before the Court, he ensures that they are translated into the three official languages ​​of the Community which are English, French and Portuguese in order to allow each judge to work in his or her own language. He added that judges do everything possible to conclude cases as quickly as possible.

On the issue of funding, he said ECOWAS institutions including the Court are funded from the Community levy contributed by Member States and that the Court is independent in its judicial functions.

Similarly, Hon Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara, Vice President of the Court added that the Court is committed to removing all obstacles to economic integration in the West African Region, particularly in matters of human rights protection. He gave an instance with a case law on slavery and women’s right to inheritance in which the Court ruled that slavery is prohibited and women have right to inheritance. He added that any of the 15 countries or institutions can approach the Court.

Other Judges present were Justices Sengu Mohamed Koroma and Ricardo Claúdio Monteiro Gonçalves.

The meeting ended with exchange of gifts on both sides and a photo session. The delegation also visited the courtroom.

The Kenya delegation led by Hon Peter Orero comprised Hon Rael Kosiwai, Hon Peter Salasya, and Hon Jimale Mohammed.

Also in attendance were Ms Rose Chemas and Mr James Nyongesa from the Kenya High Commission in Abuja, and Mr Anthony Ogunjimi from ECOWAS Commission.