Mali’s Prime Minister, Mr Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga says new security challenges such as the upsurge in terrorism and the proliferation of arms have created problems for the enforcement of the human rights of citizens and characterized the ECOWAS Court as a ‘unique organization’ in the effort to protect the human rights of victims.
Opening the 2018 International Conference of the ECOWAS Court in Bamako on Wednesday, 18th April 2018, the Prime Minister said that by ensuring the protection of the human rights of community citizens, the court has contributed to ‘peace building and integration’ as there can’t be sustainable development without respect for the rule of law.
‘You work with patience and seriousness to protect the 300 million citizens of ECOWAS Member States that are party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as other international instruments related to the protection of human rights,’ the Prime Minister said of the court whose mandate was expanded in 2005 allowing it to handle cases of violation of human rights.
Through the rigour of its decisions, he said the court has not only elevated a consciousness of the imperative of respect for human rights but become a reference point while raising the profile of the Community in relation to the protection of human rights, particularly the access to citizens without the exhaustion of local remedies.
Mr Maiga said his country’s efforts, albeit that of Africa, to secure the human rights of its citizens harks back to their history including their effort to ensure inclusiveness and protect the interest of the citizens through local mechanisms.
In spite of these achievements, the Prime Minister said a lot still needs to be done to make access to the court more egalitarian so that more West Africans could have access largely because of the cost of access and ignorance about the court.
In an earlier speech, the President of the Court, Honorable Justice Jérôme Traoré said the theme of the biennial conference was informed by the ‘contemporary circumstances of our sub region hit by challenges relating to peace, security and human rights.’
“Peace and security in West Africa are today threatened by various groups spreading terror resulting in desolation and causalities,’ he said.
He noted that the time was apt to recognize those in the frontline of the ‘war for freedom who have fallen under the murderous bullets of terrorist groups and salute our leaders and security forces who are in the vanguard of the fight against terrorism.’
The President cited former US politician, Mr. Benjamin Franklin, who said that ‘those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’
He said the conference would help highlight the imperative of protecting human rights in order to avert the breakdown of law and order which would undermine the achievement of sustainable peace.
Statements were also delivered by the Representative of the UNHCR in Mali and the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
About 170 participants drawn from the academia, the judiciary, the civil society, the ECOWAS court and ECOWAS institutions are participating in the four day conference which is on the theme Protection of Human Rights: A factor for peacebuilding in West Africa.
The theme is being discussed under eight sub themes for a comprehensive review of the various issues that impact on the theme.