UPDATED: ECOWAS Court gets new practice direction for virtual court sessions

Community Court of Justice for West African States (ECOWAS) has released a new practice direction for case management and court sessions during the period of  ravaging coronavirus (COVID-19).

The nine-page document dated May 22 was signed by the President of the court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante.

The document comprised of nine articles and was issued pursuant to Article 100 of its Rules of Procedure.

The objective is to ensure safety of judges, staff court users, timely and efficient disposal of cases and in particular, use of suitable technology for general case management system and court sessions.

It stated in Article 1 that new practice direction was issued because “the court desires to continue the hearing of cases on its general cause list and in particular, to prioritize  time bound interlocutory applications among others.

It was stated in Article 3(1) that parties and lawyers are to file their legal processes electronically.

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Sub section 2 stated: ‘In accordance with Articles 32(6); 33(3) and 74(3) of the Rules of Procedure and Article 1(2) and (3) of the Practice Direction 2012, parties and counsels shall ensure that every document lodged electronically has the email address and mobile telephone number (WhatsApp compliant) of the counsels.

Article 9(2)(g) stated that the court may not entertain any case where there is need to take oral evidence.

Article 9(2)(e) stated that parties and counsels shall be allowed into court room subject to a maximum number of five persons, excluding court staff.

Article 5(4) stated that virtual hearing shall be by collborstive platforms such as MS365 which incorporates Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Meetings among others.

While Article 5(6) stated that “in order to reduce bandwidth and guarantee smooth and uninterrupted virtual session, only parties and their lawyer, agents and counsels  are authorized to join virtual court sessions.

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Article 8 (3) said in view of nature of virtual court sessions, the court will only deliver a summarized judgment and rulings by reading out just the decision while the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the full judgment and rulings containing the analysis of the court will be forwarded to parties electronically.

Article 9(c) empowered the Court Registrar to ensure strict observation and enforcement of social distance and wearing of face masks by court staff, counsels, litigants and  other persons inside the court room.

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