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19.11.2008 Politics

Judges Prepare For Poll Disputes

By Stephen K.Effah & Doris A.Antwi -

SIXTY-FIVE judges and 10 experts in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) are being prepared to effectively and expeditiously handle election related disputes that may arise from the December polls.

The two-day training workshop, which began yesterday for Court of Appeal and High Court judges, will expose the participants to the electoral process, as well as procedural and substantive laws governing the adjudication of electoral disputes and offences.

Chief Justice Georgina Wood who opened the workshop, noted that the specialized nature of electoral adjudication made it “absolutely imperative” that judges were sensitized on their role.

 In view of the constitutional mandates of courts to resolve all electoral disputes arising from elections, she said, “it is crucial that judges are adequately prepared to meet the challenges of adjudicating petitions that may arise from the upcoming elections”.

Mrs. Wood said “non-violence is what Ghanaians are seeking, before, during and after the December 7, polls so that they can carry on with their legitimate business in a peaceful manner.

To this effect, she said “they are counting on all the agencies mandated to oversee the conduct of the elections to manage their affairs in such a manner as will promote and ensure free, fair and transparent elections.”

The Chief Justice said “Ghana has no option than to do everything within its power to consolidate and deepen its democracy, as well as build on the socio-economic gains made so far.

“Duty calls us to exercise our mandate competently, that is fairly, effectively and expeditiously in consonance with the mission statement of the judicial service,” she told the judges.

Mrs Wood said some people have understandably questioned the applicability of ADR in election adjudication but noted that “in the context of election related litigation, ADR is not about power sharing.

“Court-connected ADR is part of mainstream judicial practice and  is already being patronized by willing parties at the District Courts in particular.

The Chief Justice said that the possibility that a dispute may revolve solely around computation of figures in which case ADR might prove a better alternative, should not be lost on them.

Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan lauded the judiciary for the workshop which he described as timely, as Ghana goes to the polls.

 He said that the work of the Commission is subject to judicial review; hence, equipping the judges on the electoral processes is important.