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07.11.2007 General News

Traditional Authorities Have Important Role In Customary Law - Justice Brobbey

Mr Justice Samuel A. Brobbey, Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana yesterday emphasised that traditional authorities still have an important role to play in the development of customary laws in the country.
He explained that customary arbitration, which is adjudicatory in nature, is very good for the expeditious disposal of disputes since there are no courtroom technicalities and appeal against the decision of the arbitrator.
Mr Justice Brobbey was speaking at a workshop on; 'Knowledge exchange on customary law tradition in Ghana,' in Accra.     The workshop, which is sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), forms part of a two-year implementation programme to strengthen and build the capacity of the Judiciary Service of Ghana (JUSAC).
 The workshop, which is also an exchange programme between JUSAC and National Judicial Institute (NJI), Canada, is to enable the two groups to share their knowledge and experiences with each other on customary law practices.      He said customary arbitration allows chiefs to decide the issues raised by the dispute and hands down decisions to parties after due investigation, just like the courtroom situations.
 He said the proceedings of the system are the manifestation of participatory democracy in practical terms since at some point in the trial the chief could invite members of the audience to express their views on any aspect of the dispute or issue before the panel.     
Mr Justice Brobbey stated that customary laws were now being applied universally because judicial committees had taken the position that if particular people had no custom of their own on any issue, established custom in another place could be applied provided that the communities find the established custom fair and reasonable.
He said traditional authorities contributed to the development of customary law by ensuring social justice, social values and virtues.    He explained that the practice is best seen in the criteria for consideration of appointment as a chief.
He said the selection of a chief is meticulously done by examining the candidate from head to toe and also ensure that ex-convict, philanderer, a person with a bellicose traits or undesirable character were disqualified.
 He said chiefs were modernising their customary laws to conform to changes and necessities in their societies.    Mr Justice Brain W. Lennox, Executive Director of NJI and former Chief of the Ontario Court of Justice said the Canadian delegation has a lot to learn from the Ghanaian customary laws.
He said customary laws were important to the Canadian judiciary because of the evolution of history, especially with regard to the native Indians in that country. He said the native population was becoming more assertive on issues concerning their lands through their customary traditions.