ECOWAS Court to hold its 2021 external court session in Cote d’Ivoire

The Vice President of the Community Court of Justice, Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara says the Court will hold a ten day external session in Abidjan from the middle of October 2021 during which it will relocate temporarily to Cote d’Ivoire with‘ all its arsenal of judges and support staff.’

This is to enable the Court deal with cases in its docket and in fulfilment of its obligation to improve access by bringing the court closer to the litigants.

In an interview with ‘Le Defenseur’, a bi-monthly bulletin of the Ivorian Human Rights Movement (MIDH), the Vice President said the session to be held at the office of the ECOWAS Permanent Representative to the country, is consistent with the statute of the Court which allows it to undertake such sessions outside the Abuja seat of the Court.

Under the statute, he said the Court allowed to choose, each year, a Member State after analysis of cases filed and ‘move there with all its arsenal, all five judges, the registry and supporting staff’

The rationale, Justice Ouattara explained, is that since the Court has Community-wide jurisdiction, it can move its sittings to any Member State for the benefit of litigants in the context of its out-of-seat hearings.’

The Vice-President announced that ‘parties will be able to attend the 17- 30th October 2021 session online because of the corona virus pandemic’ while the Court will explore the possibility of allowing non-parties to attend the sessions.

Justice Ouattara had earlier addressed the issues of the mission, objectives and competence of the Court, noting that it is ‘tasked with ensuring respect for the law and the principles of equity in the interpretation of the Treaty establishing ECOWAS, which was revised in 1993’.

He also spoke about the administrative, arbitral and advisory competences of the Court including the amendment of its 1991 Protocol with the additional Protocol of 2005 which informed the Court’s human rights mandate which has become its defining mandate.

Asked about the principle of exhaustion of domestic remedies, Justice Gberi-Be Ouattara said that the principle did not apply before the ECOWAS Court, which diverged from the principle after realizing that ECOWAS citizens will otherwise have to wait for years before being allowed to come before the court which could deprive them of the remedy offered by the Court.

On the challenges confronting the court, Justice Ouattara listed them under three headings to include those related to the reduction in the number of Judges from seven to five with the attendant implications for the management of cases, the reduction in their mandate to a fixed four year term which is uncharacteristic of international courts and finally the execution of the decisions of the Court.