2nd West African Judicial Colloquium Focuses on 'Judicial Independence and Access to Global Jurisprudence'

October 18, 2007

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Fatsah Ouguergouz (at left) of the African Foundation for International Law talks with judges from the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Togo, and Benin.

From October 8-10, the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life organized the 2nd West African Judicial Colloquium around the theme "Promoting Judicial Independence and Access to Global Jurisprudence." This colloquium followed upon the 1st West African Judicial Colloquium, held in Dakar, Senegal in January 2006. The Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana and the African Foundation for International Law partnered in the organization of the second colloquium, with funding provided by the Ford Foundation – West Africa.

The 2nd Colloquium, held in Accra, Ghana, aimed to build upon the experience of the first by furthering efforts to create a strong and sustainable network among supreme and high court judges in West Africa. Participants at the 1st Colloquium considered that such a network would help them to remain independent in their judicial work and create an opportunity for expanded judicial dialogue, both of which are fundamental to well-functioning judiciaries. The program of the 2nd Colloquium was thus designed both to enhance the networking begun in Dakar and to provide critical information about how judges can access and utilize legal thinking from other national courts as well as the international legal regime.

Judges discussed how national courts can draw upon the expanding body of human rights and international law both to enrich their thinking and to promote their independence from over-reaching executive and legislative branches of the government. They also considered how they might interact with judges sitting on international courts for a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas, and how they might draw both inspiration and support from international agencies and civil society entities. Finally, West African judges examined how their courts might best cooperate with the International Criminal Court to end impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity on the continent.

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Judges explore legal resources in the Internet lab.

Practical sessions served to complement these discussions. One session leader proposed sharing information to promote effective judicial training and reform in Africa that would reach across boundaries of language and legal tradition. Another scholar described legal internship programs in both United States and international courts, stressing how young and enthusiastic legal assistants can fill the need that exists in many courts for well-trained researchers. Judges were inspired by the possibility of creating relationships with both local and foreign law schools, which could provide highly skilled interns. Finally, two intensive hands-on sessions were devoted to the use of the Internet for legal research. Judges navigated various sites devoted to decisions and case law from both national and international courts, as well as foreign legislation. Many left the colloquium vowing to become computer literate so that they can be better informed in their work and indicating that they would insist that their courts be equipped with the equipment and connections necessary for the full utilization of Internet resources.

The Colloquium ended with participants outlining a number of activities that would allow their newly created network to continue and flourish. These included issuing a joint statement on the minimal standard requirements – in both human and material resources – necessary for the proper functioning of national courts in the West African region, creating documentation centers at each court that would be devoted to legal research, organizing future gatherings in the region for professional discussion and development, and appointing a judicial network spokesperson in each country who would be charged with ensuring that the aforementioned activities take place. Judges were adamant that the Anglophone/Francophone divide be bridged through their network and that institutions as well as judges become members. All participants noted the important place of law schools and universities in the outlined activities.

Brandeis University hopes to play a role in the future programming of this newly formed regional judicial network, as do the other institutions involved in the Colloquium, the African Foundation for International Law and the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana.

This event was funded by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation.

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A traditional Ghanaian dancer entertains participants at the Colloquium opening.

Participants of the 2nd West African Judicial Colloquium

Judges

Country

Name

Title

Benin

Victor D. ADOSSOU

Sécrétaire général de la Cour Suprême du Bénin

Burkina Faso

Kassoum KAMBOU

Conseiller à la Cour de Cassation de la République du Burkina Faso

Chad

Annadjib YOUSSOUF

Commissaire du Gouvernement auprès de la Cour Suprême de la République du Tchad

Cote d'Ivoire

Gbaza BOBY

Conseiller à la Cour Suprême de la République de Côte d'Ivoire

Gambia

Abdou Kareem SAVAGE

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of The Gambia

Ghana

Vida Akoto-Bamfo

Justice of the Court of Appeal of Ghana

Guinea

Alpha Amar BALDE

Premier Avocat Général de la Cour Suprême de la République de Guinée

Liberia

Johnnie N. LEWIS

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia

Mali

Etienne KENE

Conseiller à la Cour Suprême du Mali

Mauretania

Mohamed OULD HANNANI

Président de la Cour Suprême de la République Islamique de Mauritanie

Niger

Rabo DILLÉ

Vice-Président de la Cour Suprême de la République de Niger

Nigeria

George Adeshola OGUNTADE

Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria

Senegal

Papa Makha NDIAYE

Conseiller Doyen de la Cour de Cassation

du Sénégal

Sierra Leone

Ade Renner THOMAS,

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone

Togo

Têtê Théodose TEKOE

Président de la Cour Suprême de la République du Togo

Convenors, Resource Persons and Staff

Name

Title

Leigh Swigart

Director of Programs in International Justice and Society, International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, Brandeis University

Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu

Acting Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, member of the Liberian Truth Commission

Fatsah Ouguergouz

Executive Director of the African Foundation for International Law, Judge of the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights

Emmanuel Ayoola

Vice-president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, former justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Supreme Court of The Gambia, and the Court of Appeal of the Seychelles

Linda Carter

Professor, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific

Saidou Nourou Tall

Professor and Vice-Dean of the Faculté de Sciences Politiques et Juridiques, Unversité Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar

K. Appiagyei-Atua

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana

E.K. Quashigah

Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana

A.P. van der Mei

Professor of Law, Maastricht University

Mila Versteeg

Electronic legal resource consultant and colloquium rapporteur,

Doctoral student in law, Oxford University

John Abbosey

Attorney and internet trainer, DataCenta, Accra

Clement Akapame

Colloquium program assistant and student, Faculty of Law, University of Ghana

Simone Bado

Francophone rapporteur

Laye Thiam

Logistics Consultant, Timbuktours