The Chief Registrar of the ECOWAS Court, Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh has proposed the review of the enforcement mechanism for the decisions of the court in order to address the ‘unsatisfactory compliance rate’ by Member States which has affected its effectiveness as a resort by citizens for the defence of their human rights.

Delivering a paper on Friday, 20th April 2018 at the ongoing international conference of the court in Mali, the Chief Registrar said that records of the court showed that only 22 of the 64 enforceable decisions of the court has been enforced by Member States since the adoption of the Supplementary Protocol which imposes under Article 24(3) the obligation of enforcement on Member States in accordance with their rules of civil procedure.

Judgements of the court are under the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty, binding on Member States, Community Institutions, Individuals and Corporate bodies while the initial Protocol on the Court provides that decisions of the court shall be final and immediately enforceable. A subsequent Supplementary Act provides for sanctions against Member States that fail to honour their obligations.

He characterized the non-compliance by ECOWAS Member States as a breach of their obligation under Community law which is founded on the internationally recognized legal principle of pacta sunt servanda which implies that every treaty in force is binding upon parties and must be discharged in good faith by them

Mr. Anene-Maidoh, whose paper was on the enforcement of the judgements of the court, said that only four of the 15 Member States of ECOWAS have designated their focal points for the enforcement of the decisions of the court in line with the extant community instrument while the records of the court showed that 13 Member States have enforced decisions of the court.

As part of the review, he suggested the creation of a regional ministerial committee that will monitor and supervise the enforcement of the decisions of the Court while a legal framework should be created to empower the appropriate national courts to recognize, receive and enforce judgements of the court in order to resolve the existing lacuna relating to the lack of domestic legislation to guide the national courts.

Citing a publication by a lecturer in International Law, Dr Amos Enabulele, the Chief Registrar said that ‘unless a strong regime of enforcement mechanism anchored on municipal law, and having international consequences for violating countries is fashioned out, the Community court, like its sister courts in Africa, will only exist in name and structure without effective contribution to individual well-being within the sub region.’

Consequently,  he called for the domestication of the revised Treaty and regional texts relating to the court;   the enactment of legislation in Member States for the recognition and enforcement of the decisions of the court and the involvement of political actors in the enforcement mechanism.

He also proposed that the court be empowered to send annual reports to the Council of Ministers and regional leaders on the status of compliance by Member States with decisions of the court while a unit should be established at the ECOWAS Commission for monitoring enforcement while copies of judgements of the court should be released to the President of the Commission and Member States notifying them of such decisions.

In addition, he said that the court should be empowered to set time limits for compliance with its decisions similar to the practice with the European Court of Human Rights which is also empowered to impose penalties for late compliance.

The ECOWAS court should also be empowered to impose judicial sanctions, day to day, or lump sum for non-compliance as well as monitor the execution of its judgements, the Chief Registrar added.

Also presenting on the same sub  theme, a former President of the Court, Justice Aminata Malle Sanogo revealed various attempts during her tenure to improve citizen awareness of the court and its value as well as efforts with and in Member States to improve enforcement of the decisions of the court.

Honourable Justice Sanogo, who is now the Secretary General of the government of Mali, said these included intensive sensitization programmes and advocacy visits to Member States to create an awareness of their role in the enforcement process and discuss identified issues in order to improve enforcement.

The four-day conference is being held under theme Protection of Human Rights: Factor for Peacebuilding in West Africa’ and being discussed under eight sub themes.