Judges of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice have called for the amendment of the Court’s Rules of Procedure to take cognizance of its expanded mandate relating to the protection of the human rights of community citizens.
“The existing rules were developed for the period when the court served as an inter-state court and could only deal with cases relating to the interpretation of community texts and when only Member States and community institutions had access to the Court,” the judges said on Monday, 6th July, 2015 at the end of their 4th retreat in Owerri, the capital of Nigeria’s Imo State.
The mandate of the 14-year old court was expanded in 2005, allowing it to deal with human rights violations of community citizens even if they have not exhausted local channels in their Member States.
The judges also called for the expedited development of the Court’s four-year strategic plan (2016-2020), which would provide a framework for some of the activities to be implemented over the period, in response to identified challenges to improve the effectiveness of the Court in the discharge of its mandate.
The judges suggested that mixed panels, reflecting the three linguistic groups in the region should handle cases before the court and also recommended that the Court be equipped with the requisite human and financial resources to discharge its duties.
They urged the Court’s registry to draw up an annual programme, delineating the period for the hearing of cases and those for dealing with administrative matters, whiles the Court’s division responsible for research should prepare an index of cases handled by the court.
The two day retreat enabled the seven judges to discuss various issues that will impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the court.
In a closing remark, the President of the Court, Justice Maria Do Céu Monteiro, pledged the commitment of the Court to the “uncompromising defence of the human rights of community citizens.”
She said the current judges have begun a process of reforms of the court to resolve identified challenges and make it more effective, which include the interpretation of community texts and the defence of the human rights of the citizens of the community. GNA