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Strengthening regional integration: Enforce judgements of African courts

BY: Justice Agbenorsi
Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo — A former Chief Justice
Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo — A former Chief Justice

A former Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo, has urged African countries to enforce judgments given by continental bodies with judicial power to strengthen regional integration.

She said the enforcement gaps among African countries regarding the enforcement of judgments given by courts, such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice (CCJ), if not addressed, could impede the enhancement of regional trade and commerce, as well as the promotion of human rights.

Speaking at the Central University’s Faculty of Law public lecture in Accra yesterday, Ms Akuffo, who is now the Board Chairperson of the National COVID-19 Trust Fund, emphasised that “in a country where one cannot execute a court judgment peacefully, there is likely to be bad governance and infringement on rights”.

The lecture was on the theme: “The enforcement of human rights in Africa”.

After her presentation, students were given the opportunity to seek answers to their questions on human right issues.

Context


In April this year, the President of the ECOWAS CCJ, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, at the 11th External Court Session in Accra, expressed concern about the low enforcement of judgments delivered by the court.

Describing the situation as unsatisfactory, he said the current compliance rate of the court’s judgments stood at a paltry 30 per cent.

Compliance promotes strength

Reacting to the issue of enforcement within the continent and the subregion, Ms Akuffo, who is a former President of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, explained that Africa could only be stronger when member states worked together, hence the need for countries to comply with judgements made by the African court to ensure cohesion on the continent.

She further stressed the need to strengthen regional integration, saying it would enhance mutual human rights across the region and intra-regional trade.

Refugees, human rights

On human rights, Ms Akuffo said they were God-given and must be prioritised by all.

“Without the protection of human rights, how are you going to have good governance, the rule of law and a viable democracy?” she asked.

She urged law lecturers to teach their students to test the law to ensure that certain provisions were fully developed through case law, adding: “We have provisions which are yet to be brought fully into effect for people to feel the difference. The law is there very beautifully, but to put teeth into it is what becomes the other problem.”

Additionally, the former Chief Justice emphasised the need to give attention to issues concerning refugees, as many of them were based on human rights.

“Many times, we forget that refugee-ism also raises a lot of human rights issues. And when we are talking about human rights, we must never forget about refugees,” she said.

She advocated the discussion of subjects related to refugees in the country when issues of human rights were being discussed.

Exposure

The Vice-Chancellor of the Central University, Professor Bill B. Puplampu, said the university was interested in exposing its students to current knowledge, both in and out of the classroom, hence the lecture.

He, therefore, commended the Faculty of Law for organising the public lecture, as it would not only benefit students but also enhance knowledge and understanding of the law among the citizenry.

Prof. Puplampu said a series of lectures would be held regularly to continue to deepen discourse on national issues and further enrich students’ knowledge of the law.