he groups said citizens of ECOWAS member-states should properly document evidence of human rights violations.
West Africa’s human rights institutions on Wednesday said member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should establish a mechanism to enforce compliance with the decisions of the Court of Justice.
The groups also said at the end of a two-day meeting and annual general assembly in Abuja that violators of the Court’s decisions should be sanctioned.
In the absence of a state institution to enforce compliance, the groups said members of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in West Africa, NNHRI, should be allowed to take up the responsibility.
The meeting provided the forum a chance to agree on ways of increasing the capacity of members to respond to emerging human rights challenges in the region and reinforce the capacities of senior officials of its members in investigating, monitoring, documenting and reporting human rights violations.
It was also intended to help mobilize opinions on how to reposition the NNHRI and its Secretariat for more effectiveness in the protection and promotion of human rights in West Africa.
At the end, participants agreed to activate regional judicial and financial structures to allow for an effective tackling of human rights-related atrocities, as well as accept an ECOWAS proposal to implement and support human rights programmes in collaboration with NNHRIs at the national level across the region.
In addition, they asked the ECOWAS Commission to ensure that country reports of all human rights institutions be presented to the ECOWAS Parliament and Court of Justice, popularized and shared in Member States.
While reflecting on the various crises confronting the region, particularly terrorism, the participants called on citizens of ECOWAS member-states to properly document evidence of human rights violations by both terrorist groups and national security forces, and report same to the NNHRI secretariat.
In addition, the group agreed to adopt a common vision to deal with human rights violations and related challenges in relation to electoral, democratic, economic and social instability and leadership crises in the region.
To ensure an effective service delivery, they agreed to work more closely with the West African Civil Society forum (WACSOF) and other national civil society organizations in advocacy and sensitization, while calling for the strengthening of measures aimed at enforcing the free movement of persons.
In a four-point resolution, participants specifically stated that the right to freedom of expression and the press must be protected, and the security of journalists be assured in all Member States.
They urged Member States to respect the rights of citizens to demonstrate or protest actions inimical to their interests in line with the extant laws in their respective countries.
While calling on ECOWAS to ensure accountability for human rights violations arising from terrorism, whether perpetrated by terrorists or state security agents, they called for an end to the long transition in Guinea Bissau through the conduct of a presidential election.
Urging ECOWAS to ensure regular, but free, fair, credible and inclusive presidential and legislative elections in member States, the groups also recommended that the network endorse their proposal to collaborate with relevant UN agencies to organize a regional conference to deliberate on the issue of the protection of human rights in the course of preventing terrorism.
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