The Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice wants its jurisdiction expanded to enable it to adjudicate on cases of crimes committed within the sub-region.
The court’s President, Justice Maria Monteiro, disclosed this in Abuja on Monday amid call for the establishment of an effective cross-border police network and judicial cooperation among ECOWAS member states against organised crimes and terrorism.
The ECOWAS Community Court, which was established in 2001 but became fully operational in 2005, wants to be conferred with the power to handle criminal cases in addition to its human rights jurisdiction.
A judge of the ECOWAS Court, Justice Micah Wright, on Monday read a prepared speech on behalf of Justice Monteiro at the meeting of the Asset Recovery Intra-agency Network for West Africa, the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors Against Organised Crime and the Sahel Platform for Judicial Cooperation.
The ECOWAS Court’s representative is expected to lead discussion on the theme, ‘Defending human rights in the face of growing threats of organised crime and terrorism in West Africa’ during a session in the four-day event.
Justice Monteiro, who described terrorism as an “integral part or a constituent element” of organised crime, said the ECOWAS Court could help to defend human rights in West Africa in the face of growing threats of organised crime “by fearlessly rendering bold and sound judgments in defence of human rights of our people as cases are brought to the CCJ (ECOWAS Court) for adjudication”.
She said that there was need to take a further step of giving the court “the appropriate mandate and legal jurisdiction to entertain and determine cases of international criminal offences committed within the sub-region”.
Monteiro added, “These two developments completely revolutionised the outlook, perspective, perception and appreciation about the court; it took on a more adventurist posture and caused the court to become more relevant in the interest of the Community.
“For certain, it increased the number of cases filed and decisions rendered by the court.”