By: Katherine Davis
Impunity Watch Staff Writer
ABUJA, Nigeria – On March 20, 2020, the Community Court of Justice (ECOWAS) suspended its 2020 travel-related activities and all judicial activities until further notice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ECOWAS Court has taken precautionary action to ensure the safety of their staff and plan to reschedule travel-related activities as soon as the pandemic is over. Other judicial activities have yet to be rescheduled.
Judicial activities that will be affected by this suspension include day-to-day operations by the Court’s departments, case hearings and judgements, and other ECOWAS gatherings in Abuja.
In a statement released on March 20, the President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante “urged staff not to panic, but to ensure that they remain calm, healthy, and go about their duties whilst ‘maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing.’” Staff will begin to work remotely and maintain contact with their departmental supervisors to continue day-to-day operations as smoothly as possible.
Travel related activities that will be affected by this suspension include the second judicial dialogue of the ECOWAS Court with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and training of the ECOWAS Court’s office managers; both were to have taken place in Arusha, Tanzania. On March 23, the African Court also suspended the majority of their judicial activities, including their 56th Ordinary Session, which began on March 2.
President Asante noted that ECOWAS is following the health advisories issued by the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and the World Health Organization. The ECOWAS Institutions were advised “to strongly discourage non-essential large gatherings of people; defer, cancel or postpone meetings with over 50 participants” and to employ using remote technology if possible.
President Asante explained, “we don’t want to subject staff to avoidable risk considering the global threat posed by this pandemic and consistent with the international response.” ECOWAS will continue its regular activities as soon as the pandemic is over.
Prior to the suspension, ECOWAS was scheduled to hear ten additional cases. These cases concerned violations of human rights by the countries of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, and Niger. President Asante has not released a statement regarding the rescheduling of these cases and future cases.
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