The COMESA Court of Justice: Regional agreements do protect private parties
States are the parties to international agreements; only they derive rights from such agreements and only they can litigate before international courts when violations occur. Natural or legal persons do not enjoy rights under international agreements and they cannot bring claims to international courts. Their states of nationality have to act on their behalf but this does not amount to a legal entitlement.
This is the traditional approach. However, in the context of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) it is ineffectual and has to be modified. Regional integration arrangements are about more than inter-state obligations; they establish a sui generis legal regime which has to provide for the protection of private parties too. Regional integration promotes and extends trade and commerce (involving mostly private entities) across borders and into other national jurisdictions. These activities need the protection of appropriate legal instruments and procedures and should accommodate the reality of an enlarged market arrangement.
Effective regional integration has to accommodate private parties in order to achieve the very objective behind the exercise and to prevent the uncertainty and costs which will result from fragmented and ad hoc national actions. This requires the enforcement of rights where needed; which happens typically via the establishment of regional courts and the uniform domestic application of regional legal instruments.
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