Mali’s Minister of Justice, Mr.Hamidou Younoussa Maiga has advocated the establishment of a permanent mechanism for dialogue between the national courts of ECOWAS Member States and the Community Court of Justice to strengthen synergy in the protection of human rights in the region and resolve the recurring challenge of the enforcement of the decisions of the regional court.

Article 24 (3) of the 2005 Supplementary Protocol on the Court imposes on Member States the obligation to enforce decisions of the court through designated national focal points and in accordance with their rules of civil procedure while the initial Protocol on the Court provides that its decisions shall be final and immediately enforceable.

Both texts echo the provision of the 1993 ECOWAS Revised Treaty which provides that   judgements of the court are 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.

In view of the reality of the low enforcement of the decisions of the court, the Minister said it was imperative for the regional and national courts to collaborate   in order to give effect to the provisions of the extant community texts relating to the enforcement of the decisions of the court, its role in the protection of the human rights of ECOWAS citizens and regional integration.

He also applauded the positive impact of the ECOWAS court on the human rights environment in the region exemplified by the preponderance of human rights cases before the court by citizens who can approach the court without exhausting local remedies, describing Article 26 of the courts protocol which provided the latitude for the court to sit outside its headquarters as salutary for the promotion of human rights in the region.

In his speech, the President of the ECOWAS, Court, Hon. Justice Jérôme Traoré extolled the benefits of the court’s external court session for indigent citizens, particularly from the host state and contiguous Member States, who could otherwise not afford the prohibitive cost of travelling to the court’s Abuja headquarters.

Such sessions, the President added responds to the provision of by Article 26 of the June 1991 Protocol on the court which allows it to hold external sessions in order to bring justice nearer to the citizens to reduce the cost constraints and acquaint citizens of the opportunity offered by the court for redress for the violation of their human rights.

He said that since the inaugural session in Bamako, similar sessions have been held in Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria. He paid tribute to the government and people of Mali for their support which facilitated the hosting of the preceding international conference and the four day court session.

The President of the Bar Association of Mal, Mr Alassane Sangaré had earlier described community courts as exemplified by the ECOWAS court, as the backbone of justice both for the lawyers and citizens, adding that by allowing citizen access without the exhaustion of local remedies, the court has made substantial progress in improving the long neglected field of human rights regime in Member States.

Despite these successes, he said that citizens continued to face the impediments such as access to the ECOWAS Court and the execution of its judgements.

Judgements will be delivered in two of the nineteen cases to be handled by the court during the session.