ECOWAS Court to Assist Member States in Fight Against Terrorism, Money Laundering

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By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) court has vowed to offer assistance to members States in the fight against terrorism and money laundering.

The Community Court of Justice said in its capacity as the principal legal organ of ECOWAS it could no longer remain on the sidelines of the battle which was being fought almost all over the world and within the sub region.

The President of the Court, Justice Jerome Traore disclosed this on Friday in Abuja at the 2016/2017 legal year.

According to him, “the community court of justice demonstrates its interest and determination to contribute its quota in the fight against the two manifestations of a scourge, one which plunges our people into sorrow and mourning, while the other eats away health of our already weakened economies. This combined effect of these two forms of scourge is that they put the brakes on the economic development of our states.”

He added that, “the court thus means to offer in resolute terms the needed assistance to ECOWAS and its member states in the efforts being made towards the prevention and containment of these crimes.

“The court will of course do so within the confines of the powers currently conferred upon it, particularly ensuring, without sacrificing their potency, that the rules and procedures in force, are in all respects, in consonance with the observance of human rights and guarantee of the rule of law,” Traore noted.

The president also emphasised that the court remained concerned, in equal measure, by the issue of the need of ensuring ease of access to the court, stressing that though, for the purpose of facilitating access to justice, it shall be necessary to provide the court with a legal aid funds.  This he stated would empower destitute litigants, whenever they deem themselves victims of arbitrariness to come before the court to claim their rights, saying that it would be regrettable to say a Community citizen should remain helpless due to financial reasons while his rights are being abused.

Earlier, the Director General, Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Col. Adama Coulibaly explained that money laundering was the process by which proceeds from criminal activities were disguised to conceal their illicit origin, while financing of terrorism involved the solicitation, collection or provision of funds with the intention that they might be used in whole or part to support terrorist acts or organisation.

He emphasised that while there were differences between money laundering and the financing of terrorism,  the techniques used to launder money and to finance terrorists activity were very similar and in many instances identical.

The DG noted that the current global initiatives to combat transnational organised crimes which were basically economic and financial in nature, particularly money laundering and financing of terrorism were aimed at hitting the criminals where it hurts most.

Coulibaly said GIABA’s mandate is to ensure the effective implementation of acceptable international Anti-money laundering (AML) and Combating the financing of Terrorism (CFT).

He however lamented that, “almost fifteen years after the adoption of the ECOWAS Protocol for the Prevention of Corruption, the protocol has not yet entered into force due to lack  of ratification. Under article 22 of this protocol, the protocol is expected to enter into force upon ratification by at least nine signatory States. So far only eight have ratified the protocol.”

While appealing to member States to ratify the protocol, he added that the entry into force and effective implementation of the protocol and other relevant instruments would not only enable  member States control money laundering and terrorist financing, but would also serve as a signal of the commitment to take ownership of such efforts and be each other’s keeper.