The ECOWAS Court of Justice will resume its court session on Monday, June 22, 2020 barely three months after the suspension of the session on March 20, 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.A statement by the court on Friday in Abuja said that the resumption followed the advice by the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), the ECOWAS institution with responsibility for health matters.
It added that in preparation for the resumption, the President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, said the Court had approved a nine-paged Practice Direction on Electronic Case Management and Virtual Court Session, which came into force on May 13, 2020 and would enable the Court adapt to the challenges of the pandemic.
“It has become imperative for the Court to explore the use of Electronic Case Management System for filling(e-filling) and Virtual Court Sessions, and where necessary, physical court sessions under strict conditions, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, whilst ensuring the unabated discharge of its judicial mandate,” Justice Asante said.
He explained that the Articles of the Practice Direction are definitive about the procedures for the electronic filing of legal documents and electronic service of legal documents, including modalities for virtual court sessions, recording of proceedings, judgments and rulings as well as physical court sessions in exceptional cases.
Ahead of the inaugural virtual session, the President noted that the Court has procured the necessary equipment and conducted trainings for staff and lawyers from Member States, who have filed cases before the Court and culminating in a moot court session to simulate a normal session working with the new tools.
The President noted that the virtual will also contribute to improving access to the Court, particularly for indigent citizens, who could otherwise not afford the travel and accommodation costs associated with filing cases before the Court.
“We are confident that the deployment of virtual technology for court sessions will be helpful as it will reduce the financial burden associated with cases and facilitate access to the Court, which had been exploring options for improving access including the creation of Sub Registries in Member States and a fund to assist indigent citizens,” he added.
During its maiden virtual session, the Court will deliver judgments in about 10 cases, cases in which judgment was scheduled to be delivered in March, but have been delayed because of the interruptions to the court’s scheduled calendar due to the pandemic.