A former Chief Registrar of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh, has identified the non-involvement of the region's political authorities in the enforcement mechanism of the judgments of the Court as a lacuna that requires a "redesign" of the mechanism.
Records at the court showed that about 106 judgments agaisnt Member States have not been enforced with another 11 outstanding against the ECOWAS Commission and Community institutions.
Describing the current enforcement mechanism as "rudimentary" and inconsistent with international best practice, the former official said in a paper at the 2023 international conference of the Court in Banjul said the mechanism needed to be "re-designed' to align it with international best practice, "taking into account, the perceived shortcomings of Article 24 of the 2005 Supplementary Act on the Court relating to the enforcement of its decisions."
The purpose of such a design, he said, is "to give ECOWAS political authorities, like the Council of Ministers and the Authority of Heads of State and Government and the Court a role in monitoring and supervising the implementation of its judgments."
He suggested that the 2012 Supplementary Act on Sanctions should be amended to include a provision empowering the Court not only to set time limits for compliance with its judgments but prescribe the details of the judicial sanctions for non-compliance in the form of day to day or lump sum monetary penalty.
He also added successful parties in actions before the Court should be empowered to trigger the sanctions mechanism.
In the 41-paged presentation titled "An appraisal of the judgment enforcement mechanism of the ECOWAS Court of Justice," the retired official proposed 11 other measures for improving on the level of enforcement, including the domestication of the Revised Treaty, Protocols and other regional texts and their incorporation into the domestic laws of Member States in accordance with Article 5(2) of the Revised Treaty,
Moreover, Member States should enact the implementing legislation for the enforcement of the Court's decisions to enable national courts recognize and enforce such judgments in addition to assigning the ECOWAS Commission a role in the enforcement mechanism while a committee of Ministers should be constituted to monitor and supervise the
He added: "The Court should be empowered to send its own annual report to the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and/or the Authority of Heads of State and Government on the status of compliance with its judgments by Member States like in the African Human Rights system and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights enforcement mechanism."
He told the 150 participants, comprising jurists, academics and legal practitioners that the revised mechanism should provide that upon delivery of a judgment by the Court, a copy should be sent to the President of the ECOWAS Commission and Member States notifying them of the decision in order to ensure that steps are taken towards its enforcement.
Mr Anene Maidon, who retired effectively from the Court on 30th September 2022 after about 18 years service as its Chief Registrar, suggested the creation of a dedicated unit in the ECOWAS Commission, with the mandate to follow up, investigate and verify compliance in collaboration with the relevant unit of the Court responsible for appeals, arbitration and enforcement.
The four-day 2023 international conference of the Court was held on the theme ECOWAS Zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government.