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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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CJ wants Ecowas Court to prosecute war crimes, genocide

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By Tabora Bojang

Chief Justice Hassan Jallow has urged members of the Ecowas Judicial Council currently meeting in Banjul to consider vesting the Ecowas Court with the jurisdiction to prosecute all persons who commit serious international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.

“We need to collectively take ownership of the process of accountability for serious crimes through our local/national and regional institutions. Where, as often happens, national institutions are unable to exercise jurisdiction for reasons of capacity or legal obstacles we should be able to fall back on a regional judicial institution such as the Ecowas Court to which we all subscribe,” CJ Jallow told delegates yesterday.

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The Ecowas Judicial Council which comprises eminent legal luminaries from West African states oversees the operations of the Ecowas Court.

The Banjul convergence will allow sub regional chief justices to consider and submit recommendations for the improvement of the rules of procedures of the Council.

According to Chief Justice Jallow, who is a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, access to speedy and quality justice by Ecowas citizens is no doubt an important element of the good governance which Ecowas committed itself to achieving.

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“The Community Court of Justice has now evolved from being solely an interstate court adjudicating disputes between its member states. Its human rights jurisdiction has become a veritable avenue for aggrieved individuals within the Ecowas region to seek and to obtain redress from injustice. In a similar vein we should now be looking seriously at the possibility of the Ecowas Court being not just a partner but an actor in holding to account persons who commit international crimes within its territory.

 In short, we should consider vesting the Ecowas Court with the jurisdiction to prosecute all persons who commit serious international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the environment and national resources, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, sexual and gender-based crimes to name a few. In a scenario of incapable or unwilling national systems on the one hand and on the other universal but distant and inaccessible international criminal courts, I believe that the cause of accountability for international crimes would best be served in our region by vesting such a mandate in a regional court such as ours which is already anchored on regional efforts to promote economic progress and good governance,” CJ Jallow stated.

The Chief Justice further argued that an Ecowas system of justice which enjoys a penal jurisdiction for the prosecution and holding to account of the perpetrators of serious crimes in the region will provide a more effective and comprehensive mechanism and foundation for good governance, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

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