WORKSHOPS ON RULES AND PROCEDURES OF ECOWAS COMMUNITY COURT OF JUSTICE FOR PRESIDENTS OF BAR ASSOCIATIONS IN WEST AFRICA

The West African Human Rights Forum {WAHRF} designed this project with the West African Bar Association {WABA} in attempts to further strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights in West Africa. Through the ‘Strengthening of the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in West Africa’ project, the associations seeks to empower the local Bar Associations on the rules and Procedures of the ECOWAS treaties on human rights and raise awareness about the mandate of the ECOWAS Court of Justice to hear human rights applications. Specifically the WAHRF/WABA seeks to develop the capacity of Bars with a message transmitting capacity and the legal profession to understand and use the human rights protection mechanism available under ECOWAS regime.

In general, awareness of the ECOWAS framework for the promotion and protection of the rights of ECOWAS Citizens and in particular the concept of the accessibility and effectiveness of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice are the unifying themes of the project

A good and effective human rights system is one, which allows for the individuals, who claim that their rights have been violated, to have direct access to protection mechanisms.  This mechanism was recently introduced in West Africa through the amendment in November 2004 of the Protocol to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Treaty on the Community Court of Justice, allowing for direct and easier access to the Community Court of Justice for individuals bringing complaints for human rights violations.

Although this development provides an exciting opportunity for realising and strengthening the protection of human rights in West Africa, knowledge of various ECOWAS treaties on the promotion and protection of human rights, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice and the amended provisions in the [Revised] ECOWAS Treaty providing for individual complaints on human rights violations remains obscure and vague.  There exists no vast amount of jurisprudence on the Court and little is known on the wide-scale about the Court and its potential for human rights protection.  Even where there is awareness of the existence of the Court, there is limited knowledge on how to access the Court and less still on the grounds on which one may make a claim.

The project aims at capitalising on the advantages of ECOWAS over the African Union.  The persuasion towards ECOWAS is reinforced by the procedural ease with which the Community Court may be accessed as well as the binding nature of the decisions of the Community Court and the specificity of some Community human rights laws.  A complementary characteristic is the ability of the Community Court to impose economic sanctions on a State that has been found to violate human rights.

As a strong member of the West African Human rights Forum, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju was consulted to act as the event manager for the training workshop, based on his experience in the area of capacity building.