Professor Of Law proposes New Legal Framework to Strengthen ECOWAS Court’s Effectiveness

A professor of law and Vice Chancellor of a University in Ghana, Prof. Philip Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, has suggested the adoption of a new legal framework based on the ‘trinity of doctrines’ as the panacea for overcoming the present difficulties associated with the enforcement of the decisions of the ECOWAS Court by Member States.  

The ECOWAS Court of Justice, established by the ECOWAS Treaty in 1991, which was revised in  1993 enabling the Court to have a human rights jurisdiction, has struggled with compliance issues from Member States, particularly with the enforcement of its decisions.

In his paper on the second day of the ongoing international conference of the Court in Freetown, Prof. Bondzi-Simpson identified three primary challenges with the enforcement of the decisions of the Court: the dualist approach to international law by Member States; the inconsistent appointment of competent national authorities, and cumbersome domestic enforcement procedures of the Court’s decisions.

To address these issues, he suggested a “Trinity of Doctrines,” which he argued could significantly improve the functioning and relevance of the ECOWAS Court by streamlining its integration into the national legal systems.

The first of these, the Doctrine of Deemed Domestication, suggests that international treaties and protocols should automatically be considered ratified by Member States upon signature by the executive branch, bypassing delays associated with legislative ratification.

The second doctrine, that of the Deemed Appointment of the competent national authority, which is required for the enforcement of the decisions of the court in Member States, stipulates that the Minister of Justice should automatically be considered the competent authority to enforce ECOWAS Court decisions unless another appointment is explicitly made.

The third, a Charter for the Domestic Enforcement of ECOWAS Court Decisions, would deem decisions of the ECOWAS Court as equivalent to decisions of national high courts, thereby simplifying and standardizing enforcement across Member States.

“This approach not only respects the sovereignty of Member States but also enhances their ability to comply with international obligations,” Prof. Bondzi-Simpson explained in his presentation.

Professor Bondzi-Simpson is the Vice Chancellor, Methodist University Ghana, immediate past Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and the Founding Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Cape Coast in Ghana.