Obey the rulings of sub-regional courts and tribunals, lawyers tell African governments

African lawyers, under the auspices of the Pan-African Lawyers Union, called on countries on the continent to empower human rights organizations to address corruption issues as it relates to education rights , health and other basic equipment.

While calling for comparative exchanges of ideas and views with other regional networks, the organization advised that African governments should “learn to give effect to the decisions of continental and sub-regional courts and tribunals as a means to advance democracy and the rule of law ”.

PALU presented these suggestions in a statement issued after its two-day continental symposium in Abuja on the theme: “The implementation of decisions of African international courts and tribunals: the role of national human rights institutions, legal profession and civil society organizations ”.

The statement obtained by journalists in Abuja on Wednesday was signed by PALU’s communications and IT manager Madiwa Hoza.

The statement said: “Human rights institutions and commissions should be empowered to examine corruption issues as they affect the rights to education, health and other basic amenities.

“NHRIs should engage the media in publicizing the decisions of African human rights courts.

“There should be comparative exchanges of ideas and views with other regional networks on the implementation of ECHR judgments and on the basis of comparative experience.

PALU and other stakeholders also urged state governments on the continent to learn how to give effect to the decisions of continental and subregional courts and tribunals in order to strengthen democracy and the rule of law on the continent.

They lamented the growing practice of countries on the continent treating the decisions of African international courts and tribunals with little consideration.

The Presidents argued that it made no economic and legal sense for African countries to spend enormous resources in building and maintaining such Courts to refuse to implement their decisions.

Among the speakers were the Vice-President of the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, Judge Gberi-Be Ouattara; Boniface Ogoti of the East African Court of Justice; Meredith Lwanga of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and Nigerian human rights activist Femi Falana (SAN).

Others included Donald Deya of PALU, Moussa Coulibaly, president of the West African Bar Association; Archilleus Romward of the East African Law Society; Deborah Nyokabi Mburu from the Network of African Human Rights Institutions; Osai Ojigho of Amnesty International; Simitie Lawvalry of the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission and Anne Mary Okutoyi of the Kenya National Human Rights Commission.

Judge Ouattara, who expressed unease over some recent political decisions by ECOWAS state governments regarding the court, said it was becoming difficult for the court to fulfill its obligations.

According to him, apart from the fact that most member states were reluctant to implement the decisions of the Court, they decided to reduce the number of its judges and their mandate despite the increasing workload of the Court.

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Elna M. Lemons