President Jose Mario Vaz of Guinea Bissau has challenged ECOWAS citizens to contribute to the creation in the region of an environment of “zero tolerance” for human rights violations.
He said, West Africa would only banish the ‘ghost of war, instability, dictatorship, oppression, torture and discrimination,’ by developing and implementing a region wide human rights regime that is founded on the principles of justice, fairness and equality.
President Mario Vaz was speaking at the closing of an international conference on human rights at the weekend in Bissau, a statement issued by the ECOWAS Commission and issued to the Ghana News Agency on Monday said.
According to the statement, President Vaz noted that such initiative should be founded on international instruments and best practices such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the principles of liberty, fraternity and equality in order to ensure the ‘freedom of thought, opinion, conscience and expression and guarantee the rights to live, food, free movement, work and protection.’
He reasoned that the responsibility for entrenching such a culture, rests with the citizens as it would be ‘pure illusion nowadays to pretend that without respecting the universal nature of human rights, it would be possible to overcome the modern challenges of creating a democratic and lawful society;’ and addressing the challenge of under development.
He challenged the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, which organized the conference, to be in the forefront in the fight for the improvement of the human rights environment in the region in furtherance of its mandate in order to ensure respect for human rights in the region without consideration for nationality.
In her closing remarks, the President of the Court, Honorable Justice Maria do Céu Silva Monteiro said the just concluded fifth conference provided an opportunity to review the human rights environment in the region, the role of the court in improving the situation and sensitizing citizens of Guinea Bissau about ECOWAS and its values.
She gave the assurance that the court will ‘take into consideration’ proposals for the creation of an appellate chamber based on the best position that protects the interest of the citizens, describing the three day conference as an ‘enriching and rewarding’ experience for the court and participants.
Dr Toga McIntosh, the Vice President of ECOWAS assured participants of the Commission’s commitment to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the conference.
The theme of the conference, a bi-annual event of the court, was “Human Rights as Fundamental Value of ECOWAS, an Analysis of the Jurisprudence of the ECOWAS Court of Justice.”
The theme was discussed under seven sub-themes by the 70 participants that included legal and human rights experts from within and outside the region along with the seven new judges of the Court, registry officials and relevant staff of the Court. GNA