International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International judicial Academy of the International Law Institute, Washington, D.C.
with circulation assistance from the American Society of International Law

Summer 2017 Issue

International Tribunal Spotlight


ECOWAS Community Court of Justice 


By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization of 15 West African countries, was established in May, 1975. The 15 states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cape Verde, Guinea and Niger. ECOWAS is designed to “achieve collective self sufficiency for the member states by means of economic and monetary union creating a single large trading block.” It is one of the “five regional pillars of the African Economic Community.”

In October 1999 Justice Ministers of the member states decided to establish a court of justice to receive and resolve complaints from members states and “issues relating to defaulting nations.” This action resulted in the creation of the Community Court of Justice according to specific articles of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS.

The Community Court has seven justices who are appointed by the “Authority of Heads of State of government from nationals of member states. The term of office for the justices is four years.

The Community Court has both advisory and contentious cases jurisdiction. Advisory opinions can be given on ”any matter that requires interpretation of the Community text". Contentious jurisdiction extends to the following cases:

Failure of a member state to honor obligations under Community law.

Any dispute relating to the interpretation and application of acts of the Community.

Disputes between institutions of the Community and their officials.


Cases involving liability for or against the Community.

Cases involving the violation of human rights in any member state.

Legality of regulations, directives, decisions and other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by ECOWAS.

There is an intention to create an arbitration panel for the Community. Until that happens the Community Court serves as an arbitration panel. The Community Court is located in Abuja, Nigeria.

There are a variety of organizations and persons who have access to the Community Court and its jurisdiction. They include member states, Council of Ministers, specialized commissions, individuals and corporate bodies for any act that violates the rights of the individual or corporation, ECOWAS institutional staff members, persons who are victims of human rights violation in any Member State, national courts of member states or parties to a case in a national court under certain conditions, and Authority of Heads of States and Government on issues not related to any of the above.

The Community Court maintains a Registry for the receiving and processing of applications for action by the Court. The applicable law of the Community Court are ECOWAS treaty, conventions, and protocols, “and the general principles of law set out in Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. The Court also recognizes in the area of human rights law “international law relating to human rights and ratified by the State or States Party to the case.”

The current president of the Community Court is Justice Jerome Traore of Burkina Faso. The six other justices are from Liberia, Mali, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, and Senegal respectively.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2017 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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