The President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice on Saturday wrapped up the institution’s annual judicial retreat with a clarion call for the court to ‘jealously guard its independence’ in the face of the ongoing institutional reform by the community that will adversely affect its capacity to discharge its four-fold mandate.
Envisaged under the reform, unveiled during the June statutory meetings of the Community in Monrovia, is the reduction of the number of judges of the court from seven to five.
Justice Jérôme Traoré said that against the backdrop of the progressive increase in the number of cases filed before the court, the number of court sessions and the proposed creation of an appellate chamber in the court, the proposal was a recipe for effectively emasculating the court.
‘ Observations during the retreat revealed the need for the Court to guard jealously the effectiveness of its independence as the Court is currently feeling harshly shaken by a process of reforms conducted without regard to its opinion,’ he added.
Unlike previous retreats characterised by debates and direct interactions between the panellists, he said that the just concluded session focused rather on the panel discussion of issues and the clash of arguments.
Consequently, the debates allowed the participants to point out the difficulties encountered by our institution not only in its internal functioning but also in its relationship with the other institutions of the Community, within the context of the intentions of the extant provisions of the Revised Treaty on the independence of the Court.
One of the values of the retreat, he said, is the need for the court to remain mobilised to confront the identified challenges so as to strengthen the court and avert its progressive dismantling under the ongoing cost saving institutional reform embarked on by the community.
He paid tribute to the participants for their enthusiasm despite the complexity of the themes and the intensity of the retreat as the discussions were characterised by ‘cordiality, conviviality, generosity and diversity’ articulated in the spirit of frankness.
About eighty staff and judges of the court participated in the retreat which was on the theme The ECOWAS Court of Justice: prospects for growth.
Discussions were held under six sub themes focusing on various issues and challenges confronting the court