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ECOWAS Protocol on citizenship outdated – Monteiro

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ECOWASThe President of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Justice Maria Do Céu Silva Monteiro, has described the 1982 regional Protocol defining community citizenship in ECOWAS as ‘outdated’.

She has thus called for its revision, which should be in line with evolving regional and international dynamics of citizenship.

A statement issued by the ECOWAS Commission and made available to the Ghana News Agency said Justice Monteiro made the call at the just ended ECOWAS ministerial meeting on Statelessness in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Justice Monteiro said since the signing of the ECOWAS Protocol on Citizenship, some Member States have amended their constitution to permit dual citizenship which is not recognized by the Protocol.

Moreover, by making community citizenship ‘subservient to the national laws of Member States, who are actually the violators of the rights of stateless person,’ the Protocol has become inappropriate as a tool for addressing statelessness.

She praised the UN High Commission for Refugees, which jointly organised the ministerial meeting with the ECOWAS Commission, for constituting an important voice for the promotion and protection of human rights particularly in Africa.

Describing the right to nationality as critical to the realisation of other fundamental human rights, the President lamented that despite this recognition and various international declarations on human rights, an estimated 10 million people remain stateless.

‘Given that statelessness is a global problem and the consensus that statelessness and the right to nationality have become issues of international law,’ she said, adding that, the concept of nationality has therefore taken an international dimension and no longer reside in the domestic realm.

This development, she said, should interest international and regional judicial bodies such as the Court, whose mandate was expanded in 2005 to deal with violations of the human rights of ECOWAS citizens.

Justice Monteiro assured the meeting of the determination of the Court to faithfully exercise this mandate in order to ensure the protection of the human rights of the citizens, noting that, discrimination against stateless persons should be viewed as a violation of their human rights, which can be the subject of litigation.

The President led the Court’s delegation, which included Vice President, Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, to the meeting which adopted a Declaration on the prevention, reduction and elimination of statelessness in West Africa on Wednesday, 25th February 2015.

The Declaration contains 25 commitments and highlights, in particular the necessity for ECOWAS Member States to generate concrete information on the causes of statelessness and the number and profile of stateless persons in the region.

At least 750,000 people are stateless or at risk of statelessness in the region and are subject to life in limbo, with limited access to education, healthcare, and employment.

Source: GNA

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