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ECOWAS Court pledges to defend citizens’ rights

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justice-maria-monteiro-ecowas-courtThe ECOWAS Community Court of Justice would not shirk its responsibility to protect human rights in West Africa, in line with existing international instruments.

The President of the ECOWAS court, Justice Maria Do Céu Silva Monteiro, gave the assurance in a statement issued by the Commission and made available to the Ghana News Agency.

‘Through its decisions, the court has strengthened the value of compliance by Member States with their human rights obligations under international law and the rule of law driven by its priority and consideration for human dignity and life,’ the President said, during a visit by a delegation of the Catholic Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa to the court, last Tuesday in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Regional Episcopal Conference for West Africa embraces the Francophone, Anglophone and Luxophone countries of West Africa.

It serves as the organ for liaison and cooperation, among all the Bishops of West Africa and between the National and Inter territorial Episcopal Conferences in the region, mostly on matters of common interest.

The President described the regional integration project as “an acknowledgement that we are all one people separated by artificial borders created by our colonial masters.”

She then briefed the delegation on the history, structure and mandate of the 14-year old court, including the 2005 additional protocol, which expanded its mandate, granted citizens direct access to the court and allowed it to handle cases of human rights violations without the exhaustion of local remedies.

In his comments, His Eminence, Théodore Adrien Cardinal Sarr, the President of the Catholic Regional Episcopal Conference and Archbishop Emeritus of Dakar, paid tribute to the court for its role in advancing human rights in West Africa.

Cardinal Sarr said that the Secretariat of the Conference was transferred to the Nigerian capital, which also hosted the ECOWAS Commission and two community institutions, to demonstrate the Conference’s determination to forge close working relations with the Commission with which it shares a common vision of the integration of the region.

He also expressed the desire of the Conference to be granted an observer status with the ECOWAS and to collaborate in the defence of human rights, the pursuit of the region’s development, and the promotion of the rule of law.

The statement said until recently, the Catholic Bishops of West Africa had two different organs of collegiality that were supra-national based on linguistic differences: the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) and Conférence Episcopale Régionale de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CERAO).

In its desire to promote greater regional integration and organic pastoral solidarity transcending the linguistic and historical differences, the Bishops decided to have one Regional Episcopal Conference for West Africa embracing the three language groups in West Africa.

The delegation also included the Second Vice President of the Conference, His Excellency Jose Camnate NÃ BISSIGN of Guinea Bissau and Reverend Father Joseph Aka, the First Deputy Secretary of the Conference.

Also at the meeting was the Vice President of the Court, Justice Chijioke Friday Nwoke.

Source: GNA

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