President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, Justice Edward Asante, has appealed to member states to enforce judgment passed by the Court; an issue he noted was a major challenge of the Court.
Justice Asante, who made the call during a virtual news conference, explained that the lack of political will on the part of member states to enforce its judgment was limiting the effectiveness of the regional court.
He explained that aspect of enforcing judgments of the court does not rest with the court but with member states.
“The Judgments of this Court are binding on the Member States, Institutions of ECOWAS, Individuals and Corporate bodies.
“And the protocol gives the responsibility for the enforcement of the judgments of the Court to member states in accordance with their Rules of Civil Procedure.
“It also requires each member state to appoint a competent National Authority for the purpose of receipt and processing of the execution of judgments of the Court.” Justice Asante said.
Justice Asante disclosed that most Member states were yet to play their part enshrined in the protocol, noting that even those who have met the requirements still disregard judgments of the court when they are served.
“The enforceability aspect of judgments has not been given to the court, it has been given to member states and member states have to have the political will to be able to enforce the judgments,” he explained.
“Initially, by the amended protocol they have to appoint representatives in their various countries who will have to receive the judgments of the court and make sure they enforce them within their countries.”
“It is only five member states who have appointed the representative, even then, those who have appointed, judgment is served on them and it still depends on the political will of the government,” he disclosed.
As a way out, he proposed that the protocols be amended such that judgments creditors, someone who has obtained judgments from the court, are allowed to enforce the judgment in their countries through the local courts.
Justice Asante also called on the media and civil society groups to also play their part to advocate in the countries for the effective implementation of the rulings of the Community Court of Justice.
The President of the regional court also disclosed that the court has resorted to technology in carrying out its activities.
‘In compliance with this advisory and in order to resume its critical judicial functions, the Court was compelled to update its Practice Direction to integrate, among other things, the conduct of virtual court sessions and the electronic filing of cases.”
“I am happy to announce that the first virtual Court sessions were on held on Monday, 22nd June 2020 with one judgment and one hearing”.
“The technology might enable us to discard preparations by the Court for the creation of sub-registries in the Member States to facilitate the filing of cases and a fund to assist this category of citizens who could otherwise find the cost of bringing cases before the Court prohibitive because of the travel and associated costs.” Justice Asante added.
Justice Asante also expressed optimism that beyond the obviously visible value of this technology to the conduct of Court sessions, the technology will also help to improve access to the Court for indigent citizens of ECOWAS.