The Community Court of Justice was created pursuant to the provisions of Articles 6 and 15 of the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Originally conceived as the “Tribunal of the Community” in the 1975 ECOWAS treaty, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (ECCJ) came into existence through a 1991 Protocol adopted by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government. The ECCJ is currently established by Articles 6 and 15 of the 1993 Revised ECOWAS Treaty.
By amendments introduced to its original Protocol in the 2005 Supplementary Protocol of the Court, the jurisdiction of the ECCJ is now enlarged to cover cases alleging human rights violations arising from ECOWAS Member States. The Supplementary protocol does not require applicants to exhaust local remedies as a prerequisite condition for bringing actions relating to human rights violations before the Court. Over 85% of cases concluded by the ECCJ as at December 2009 are related to allegations of human rights violations within the ECOWAS Member States.
The Court is composed of seven independent Judges who are persons of high moral character, appointed by the authority of Heads of State of Government, from a list of up to two persons nominated by each Member State, for a four-year term of office, upon recommendation of the Community Judicial council.
The Mandate of the Court is to ensure the respect of the law and of the principles of equity, in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treaty and all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by Community.
The court has the jurisdiction to hear cases against Member States of ECOWAS, who have failed to fulfill their obligations under any law that is applicable in the court and it also has jurisdiction to interpret and apply treaty or charter (African Charter) provisions, to ensure the protection of victims of human rights violations.
The Court adjudicates in disputes between Institutions of the Community and their officials; it also has the competence to handle cases dealing with liability for or against the Community.
The Court adjudges and makes declarations on the legality of Regulations, Directives, Decisions, and other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by ECOWAS.
The Court gives legal advisory opinion on any matter that requires interpretation of the Community text.
Competence in Matters of Arbitration
The Court is competent to act as Arbitrator, pending the establishment of an Arbitration Tribunal, provided for under Article 16 of the Revised Treaty.
How to access the ECOWAS CCJ
The Court applies the Treaty, the Conventions, Protocols and Regulations adopted by the Community and the general principles of law as set out in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Decisions of the Court are not subject to appeal, except in cases of application for revision by the Court; decisions of the Court may also come under objection from third parties. Decisions of the Court are binding and each Member State shall indicate the competent national authority responsible for the enforcement of decisions of the Court.
Cases are filed before the Court through written applications addressed to the registry. Such applications must indicate the name of the applicant, the party against whom the proceedings are being instituted, a brief statement of the facts of the case, and the orders being sought by the plaintiff.
The Court can be accessed by all Member States, the Authority of Heads of State and Government and any other Institutions of ECOWAS; individuals and corporate bodies, for any act of the Community which violates the rights of such individuals or corporate bodies; staff of any of the ECOWAS Institutions; persons who are victims of human rights violation occurring in any Member State; national courts or parties to a case, when such national courts or parties request that the ECOWAS Court interprets, on preliminary grounds, the meaning of any legal instrument of the Community.
In the area of human rights protection, the Court equally applies, inter alia, international instruments relating to human rights and ratified by the State or States party to the case.
How IHRDA engages with the ECOWAS CCJ
IHRDA is part of the ECOWAS Court Coalition, an initiative of the Centre for Human Rights and the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The coalition aims, among other activities to assist in giving visibility to the Community Court and to facilitate access to the Court by community citizens. The overall goal of the Coalition is to support the operation of a more effective ECOWAS Court of Justice.