Justice Maria Monteiro, President of the Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice, has called for expansion of the ECOWAS court’s jurisdiction to enable it adjudicate on cases of crimes committed within the sub-region.
Monteiro made the call in Abuja on Monday amid call for the establishment of effective cross-border networks of police and judicial cooperation among ECOWAS member states against organised crimes and terrorism.
The ECOWAS Community Court was established in 2001 but became fully operational in 2005.
The court is seeking conferrement of power to handle criminal cases in addition to its human rights jurisdiction.
Justice Micah Wright, a judge of the ECOWAS Court, 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 redenring bold and sound judgments in defence of human rights of our people as cases are brought to the CCJ (ECOWAS Court) for adjudication”.
She added that there was need for 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”.
“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,” Monteiro added.
At the event, which drew participants from prosecutors from the Federal Ministry of Justice and their counterparts from West Africa, representative of the United Nation Office on Drugs Crime in Nigeria, Mr. Koli Kouame, reiterated the need for cooperation against cross-border criminal networks among member states of ECOWAS.
Kouame, who was represented by Senior Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Organised Crime Branch, UNODC, Mrs. Karen Kramer, said, “Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to effectively fight against cross-border criminal networks, it is necessary to establish coherent and effective cross-border networks of police and judicial cooperation.
“This cooperation shall be in accordance with law, with respect for human rights and the sovereignty of each state.”
Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abdullahi Yola, who was represented by the Director Public Prosecutions, Mohammad Diri, commended the UNODC and other international development partners for creating platforms where nations countries could discuss and foster new ideas in fighting organised crimes.