West Africa’s quest to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law can only be successful in an atmosphere devoid of insecurity and political crises, Mali’s Minister of Human Rights, Madam Kadidia Sangare Coulibaly said on Saturday, 22nd April 2018 in Bamako.

It is therefore compelling ‘to win the war’ against the crises in some part of the region in order to pave way for  the emergence of a political environment conducive to the demands of human rights and the rule of law, the minister said while closing the four day international conference of the Community Court of Justice.

The minister also spoke of the need for ‘intense’ collaboration between the Court and national courts as well as Member States in order resolve the perennial problem of the non-enforcement of the decisions of the ECOWAS court, one of the sub themes discussed during the four day conference which was on the theme   Protection of Human Rights: A factor for peace building in West Africa.

She said that such collaboration was desirable in resolving the vexed issue of enforcement by Member States who are obliged under the extant Community regulations to enforce such decisions for the purpose of improving public confidence in the court as a regional resort for the protection of their human rights.

The minister characterized the preponderance of human rights cases in the ECOWAS court as evidence of the disposition by citizens for recognition and human dignity taking advantage of its peculiar mechanism that allows citizens direct access without the exhaustion of local remedies.

‘When decisions are delivered and implemented, it will contribute to West Africa’s case law development and a regime of human rights peculiar to the region,’ the minister said, noting that it would also advance community law in the spirit of the region’s overarching objective of  cooperation and integration.

Furthermore, she urged ECOWAS Member States to domestic the international legal instruments relating to the protection of Internally Displaced Persons in order to establish a regional framework for protecting the interest of the 2 million persons displaced in the region.

In order to improve citizen access to the court and ensure ‘effective justice’, the minister  called for the creation of a legal aid scheme for indigent citizens who could otherwise not access the court for redress and the creation of an appellate chamber to handle appeals for decisions of the court.

Madam Coulibaly also canvassed the enactment of a West Africa specific human rights instrument nuanced to the peculiarities of the region and the creation of synergy between the ECOWAS court and other courts in Member States and the continent as this would help the evolution of a human rights mechanism that responds to the needs of the Member States, the region and Africa.

In an earlier speech, the President of the ECOWAS Court, Honorable Justice Jerome Traore said the presentations at the conference and the discussions have enriched the participants who are drawn from the court, the academia, members of the civil society and the judiciary of Member States, including Chief Justices who have responsibility for the recruiting judges of the court under the aegis of the ECOWAS judicial council.

He said that although judges of the court will soon be leaving the court after their tenure, they ‘remain at the disposal of our community to contribute our humble quota towards the consolidation of human rights protection, a sure bet for sustainable peace in our region.’