ECOWAS Court to standardise its judgment in line with the tradition of other international courts

The ECOWAS Court of Justice on Monday, 12th October 2020 launched a process for the standardization of its judgments to align it with the formats for other international jurisdictions and reflect its role as an international Court.

‘The intention is to develop a mechanism that brings greater clarity to the judgments of the Court for the benefit of the parties and lawyers with the rationale and logic properly set out, discernible and based on a logical sequence,’ the President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante said at a workshop hosted by the Court to launch the process.

The President said the process is intended to develop a template nuanced to its specificities and should enable the Court resolve the variations in the structure of its judgments, which is presumably a function of the trilingual nature of the Court and the interplay of the two prevailing legal regimes in the region- the Common and Civil Law systems.

The consequence of this heritage, he added, is that the judges adopt an approach in writing, presentation and format that reflects their background resulting in a lack of uniformity in the judgments of the Court which at variance with tradition of other international Courts whose membership traverse more than one legal system but still manage to retain uniformity in the presentation of their judgments.

Justice Asante told the participants, comprising judges and staff of the Court, that the template is envisaged to enable the Court deliver judgments that contain clearly stated issues, an analysis of relevant facts and law as well as a conclusion that reveals the reasoning process.

In this regard, he said it should flow logically and in an organized manner from the introduction to the conclusion while avoiding verbosity without compromising the vital ingredients necessary for coherence, comprehension and logical understanding, adding that this will enable readers to understand the rationale for the judgments and engender public confidence in the Court.

In order to ensure that the template is aligned with other international jurisdictions, the President said the working paper for the three day workshop was developed with inspiration from the formats from the International Court of Justice, the Inter American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Justice Asante said the template will also deal with the issues of style and terminologies, in order to ensure consistency in the use of nomenclatures, noting that the workshop is another evidence of the determination of the current college of judges to continue to improve on the fundamental structures of the Court for improved justice delivery.

In another presentation, the Chief Registrar of the Court, Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh expressed optimism that this vexed issue of standardization of judgments, which has been severally discussed since the Court delivered its first judgment on 27th April 2004 and in several judicial retreats without outcomes, will be finally realized through the workshop.

The reality on ground, he said, is that due to the interplay of different legal traditions and personal preferences of the Judges of the Court, the Court has divergent judgement styles and presentations which is also reflected in the designation of parties before the Court.

The Chief Registrar noted that irrespective of the different legal systems in the Community and the individual preferences of our judges, the intendment is that there should be a uniform, unique or peculiar style of presentation of the judgements of the ECOWAS Court of Justice for consistency and easy identification.

He said that the impact of the standardization will be far reaching as it also touches on the public image of the Court, adding that the offers it an excellent opportunity for branding.