The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has called on the Chairman of ECOWAS, President John Dramani Mahama, to give prominence to justice and the fight against impunity in his ongoing efforts to deal with the security challenges facing the region.
According to the MFWA, the ongoing efforts to deal with security challenges of the region must be pursued alongside a clear and purposeful commitment to punish perpetrators of crime and human rights violations and providing justice to victims of such crimes and violations.
“We are of the view that justice has always been a fundamental element and prerequisite in the promotion of peace and stability. It is important to have in place, a strong justice mechanism that deters perpetrators of crimes and assures potential victims of justice,” said, the Executive Director of the MFWA, Sulemana Braimah.
The organisation has therefore expressed grave concern about the dwindling authority and capacity of the ECOWAS community Court of Justice mainly as a result of non-compliance with judgements of Court by member states.
According to the MFWA’s Executive director, the ECOWAS Court has so far delivered many seminal judgements and proven to be a bold adjudicator of last resort within the region. However, over 60% of the Court’s judgements involving member states have not been complied with.
“We cannot be talking about peace and security without a commitment to ensure justice. We are, therefore, calling on the ECOWAS Chairman, to include the issue of Justice and the empowerment of the ECOWAS Court in all his agenda for peace and in his deliberations with colleague Heads of State,” Sulemana recommended.
The MFWA’s letter comes ahead of President Mahama’s invitation of ECOWAS leaders to a meeting in Accra on Friday May 30, to discuss the security situation in the region especially the recent attacks of the Boko Haram group in Nigeria.
Below is the full letter from the MFWA to the ECOWAS Chairman.
Republic of Ghana
May 28, 2014:
Need for Strong Justice Mechanism in Dealing with Security Challenges of the Region
On behalf of our partner organisations in ECOWAS member states, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) wishes to once again congratulate you on your election to the high office of Chairman of the ECOWAS. We also wish to further commend you on your ongoing efforts in tackling the security problems in the region, particularly the threats posed by the Boko Haram group.
Your Excellency, we are writing to you to highlight the need to have a strong justice mechanism as part of the ongoing efforts to improve the security situation in the region.
As a civil society group, we are happy that you have chosen to focus on dealing with the most important challenge facing the region at the moment – the alarming threats to regional Peace and Security. This is because, peace and stability is central to the fulfilment of having an ECOWAS of citizens rather than of states, as envisioned in the agenda of the regional body.
However, as you are aware, Your Execllency, the fight for peace and stability requires very strong justice mechanisms that make it possible for perpetrators of crime (especially international crimes) to be duly punished and for victims to have access to justice.
We are of the view that justice has always been a fundamental element and prerequisite in the promotion of peace and stability. This is why we are deeply concerned about the weakening authority and capacity of the ECOWAS Court of Justice.
So far, the ECOWAS Court has delivered many seminal judgements and proven to be a bold adjudicator of last resort within the region. However, over 60% of the Court’s judgements involving member states have not been complied with. This spate of non-compliance is extremely worrying as it reduces the authority and usefulness of the Court. The situation is also worrying because it fosters impunity and reduces citizens’ confidence in the Court as a regional judicial mechanism.
Officials of the Court have on several occasions complained about the issue of non-compliance as a breach of the Statutes of the ECOWAS and the Treaty that establishes the Court. Several studies and statements have also pointed to the issue of non-compliance as a major challenge to the Court’s authority, credibility and continued relevance.
Your Excellency, given the centrality of rule of law and justice to your pursuit of peace and stability in the region, we are calling on you to prioritise the strengthening of the Court by urging member states to respect the judgments of the Court.
We also urge you to lead the invocation of the sanctions provisions in the ECOWAS treaty against member states that refuse to comply with decisions of the Community Court
We appreciate your consideration of this letter, and would welcome the chance to discuss these issues with you or your representatives in greater depth.