Tag Archive for: recognition and enforcement

Ducking the Ricochet: The Supreme Court of Canada on Foreign Judgments

Written by Stephen G.A. Pitel, Western University

The court’s decision in HMB Holdings Ltd v Antigua and Barbuda, 2021 SCC 44 (available here) is interesting for at least two reasons. First, it adds to the understanding of the meaning of “carrying on business” as a test for being present in a jurisdiction. Second, it casts doubt on the application of statutory registration schemes for foreign judgments to judgments that themselves recognize a foreign judgment (the so-called ricochet).

In this litigation HMB obtained a Privy Council judgment and then sued to enforce it in British Columbia. Antigua did not defend and so HMB obtained a default judgment. HMB then sought to register the British Columbia judgment in Ontario under Ontario’s statutory scheme for the registration of judgments (known as REJA). An important threshold issue was whether the statutory scheme applied to judgments like the British Columbia one (a recognition judgment). In part this is a matter of statutory interpretation but in part it requires thinking through the aim and objectives of the scheme.

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Enforcement of Foreign Judgments about Forum Land

By Stephen G.A. Pitel, Western University

In common law Canada, it has long been established that a court will not recognize and enforce a foreign judgment concerning title to land in the forum.  The key case in support is Duke v Andler, [1932] SCR 734.

The ongoing application of that decision has now been called into question by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Lanfer v Eilers, 2021 BCCA 241 (available here).  In the court below the judge relied on Duke and refused recognition and enforcement of a German decision that determined the ownership of land in British Columbia.  The Court of Appeal reversed and gave effect to the German decision.  This represents a significant change to Canadian law in this area.

The Court of Appeal, of course, cannot overturn a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.  It reached its result by deciding that a more recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, that in Pro Swing Inc v Elta Golf Inc, 2006 SCC 52, had overtaken the reasoning and result in Duke and left the Court of Appeal free to recognize and enforce the German decision (see paras 44-45 and 74).  This is controversial.  It has been questioned whether Pro Swing had the effect of superseding Duke but there are arguments on both sides.  In part this is because Pro Swing was a decision about whether to recognize and enforce foreign non-monetary orders, but the orders in that case had nothing to do with specific performance mandating a transfer or title to land in the forum.

I find it hard to accept the decision as a matter of precedent.  The title to land aspect of the foreign decision seems a significantly different element than what is at issue in most non-monetary judgment decisions, such that it is hard to simply subsume this within Pro Swing.  What is really necessary is detailed analysis of whether the historic rule should or should not be changed at a normative level.  How open should courts be to recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments concerning title to land in the forum?  This raises related issues, most fundamentally whether the Mocambique rule itself should change.  If other courts now know that British Columbia is prepared to enforce foreign orders about land in that province, why should foreign courts restrain their jurisdiction in cases concerning such land?

In this litigation, the defendant is a German resident and by all accounts is clearly in violation of the German court’s order requiring a transfer of the land in British Columbia (see para 1).  Why the plaintiff could not or did not have the German courts directly enforce their own order against the defendant’s person or property is not clear in the decision.  Indeed, it may be that the German courts only were prepared to make the order about foreign land precisely because they had the power to enforce the order in personam and that it thus did not require enforcement in British Columbia (analogous to the Penn v Baltimore exception to Mocambique).

Given the conflict with Duke, there is a reasonable likelihood that the Supreme Court of Canada would grant leave to appeal if it is sought.  And if not, a denial of leave would be a relatively strong signal of support for the Court of Appeal’s decision.  But the issue will be less clear if no appeal is sought, leaving debate about the extent to which the law has changed.


No reciprocity for Swiss and German judgments in Jordan

Two recent rulings of the Supreme Court of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan refused recognition and enforcement of  German and Swiss judgments on maintenance on grounds of no reciprocity.

I. First case: No reciprocity with Germany

  1. The facts

The applicant was the wife of the respondent, both Jordanian nationals. She filed several applications before German courts in Stuttgart, and obtained a number of final judgments ordering payments for alimony to her benefit. Due to non payment by the husband, she filed an application for the recognition and enforcement of the German judgments in Jordan.  The Court of first instance declared the judgments enforceable in Jordan in 2009. The husband appealed. The Amman Court of Appeal issued its decision January 2015, revoking the appealed decision. The wife filed a second appeal (cassation).

  1. The ruling of the Supreme Court of Cassation

Initially, the Supreme Court underlined the lack of a judicial cooperation agreement between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Germany, which leads to the application of the Jordan law on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. The Supreme Court stressed out that for the purposes of a foreign judgment being executed in Jordan, the conditions stipulated in the Law on Execution of Foreign Judgments No. (8) of 1952 must be met. It then referred to the provisions of Article (7/2) of the law, which states that the court may reject the application requesting the execution of a judgment issued by a court of any country whose law does not allow the recognition of judgments issued by the courts of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The Supreme Court refers then to the order of the Amman Court of Appeal to the applicant, by virtue of which the latter was invited to provide evidence whether German laws allow the recognition of judgments issued by Jordanian courts. Based on the letter received by the Ministry of Justice in December 2014, the Court of Appeal concluded that there is no reciprocity between Jordan and Germany to recognize judgments issued by their courts.

On the grounds aforementioned, the Supreme Court dismissed the cassation and confirmed the ruling of the Amman Court of Appeal [Jordan Court of Cassation, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ruling issued at 9/2 /2020].

II. Second case – No reciprocity with Switzerland

  1. The facts

The parties were a Romanian wife (applicant in Jordan and claimant in Switzerland) and a Jordanian husband (defendant in Switzerland and appellant in Jordan). The applicant obtained a set of decisions against the respondent, including the right of guardianship over the child resulting from their marriage, and maintenance. In 2019, the wife filed an application for the recognition and enforcement of a number of judgments issued by Zurich courts. Both the North Amman Court of First Instance and the Amman Court of Appeal allowed the recognition of the Swiss judgments. The husband lodged a second appeal in March 2020, invoking a number of grounds for cassation. The focus is on the 9th and 10th ground, namely the following:

a.       The instance courts erred and violated the text of Article 7/2 of the Foreign Judgment Execution Law by not responding to his request, that Swiss courts do not recognize judgments issued by Jordanian courts.

b.      The Court of Appeal was mistaken by not allowing evidence to be presented, demonstrating that Swiss courts do not accept rulings issued by Jordanian courts

  1. The ruling of the Supreme Court of Cassation

In response to the above, the Supreme Court stated that for the purposes of the foreign judgment being executed within the Kingdom, it is imperative that the recognition meets the conditions stipulated in the Law on Execution of Foreign Judgments No. (8) of 1952. By referring to the provisions of Article (7/2) of the same law, the Supreme Court reproduced the wording of the provision, namely, that the court may also reject the application requesting the execution of a judgment issued by one of the courts of any country whose law does not permit the recognition of judgments issued by the courts of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. What is learned from this text, the Supreme Court continues, is that reciprocity must be available, and the ruling does not violate public order.

The Supreme Court granted the appeal with the following reasoning:

  • the Court of Appeal omitted to examine whether there was reciprocity between Jordan and Switzerland to mutually recognize judgments issued by their courts;
  • it also failed to address the Ministry of Justice to clarify whether there was reciprocity, and that the judgments issued by the Jordanian courts are recognized by the courts of Switzerland, and then to evaluate the respective evidence.

Based on the above, the Supreme Court decided to refuse recognition of the Swiss judgments [Jordan Court of Cassation, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ruling issued at 21/9/2020].

Chinese court refuses enforcement of an IFTA Arbitration award

Shawn He reported recently on a Chinese judgment refusing the declaration of enforceability of an arbitral award issued by the Independent Film & Television Alliance Arbitration Court.

The Tianjin Intermediate People’s Court dismissed the application on two grounds: No standing to be sued of the Chinese company, and notification vices.

One point which should be highlighted is the duration of the proceedings: The application was filed on March 2018, and the judgment (in first instance) was rendered on May 2020…


Have your say: the EU opens Public Consultation into the possible accession to the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention

The EU has opened a Public Consultation into a possible accession to the 2019 HCCH Judgments Convention. The Consultation will run from 22 June 2020 – 05 October 2020 (midnight, Brussels time).

The Consultation is expansive and the target audience is described as follows: businesses and citizens involved or likely to get involved in international trade and investment; public authorities (including justice professionals); social partners organisations (trade unions and employers organisations), trade, business and professional associations, including consumer and business organisations, as well as professional organisations representing lawyers and members of research or academic institutions.

Importantly, the Consultation is not limited to EU Stakeholders. Rather, the EU expressly invites non-EU Stakeholders to participate and have their say.

Given the importance of being able to manage cross-border enforcement risks and validate rights through a predictable, effective and efficient international enforcement mechanism, this Consultation should attract many submissions from around the globe.

The questionnaire, which is available, and can be filled in, in any official EU language, as well as further information concerning the Consultation, can be found following this link.


Australia’s first contested ICSID enforcement

In February, the Federal Court of Australia delivered its judgment on the first contested enforcement of International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) awards in Australia. In Eiser Infrastructure Ltd v Kingdom of Spain [2020] FCA 157, the Court enforced two ICSID awards—award of 4 May 2017 in Case No. ARB/13/36, and award of 15 June 2018 as rectified by the award dated 29 January 2019 in Case No. ARB/13/31—against the Kingdom of Spain. The two cases were brought by different applicants but were heard and decided together.

The judgment concerns the interaction of two instruments at the intersection of public and private international law. Firstly, it concerns the Foreign States Immunities Act 1985 (Cth), which gives effect to a restrictive theory of state immunity. Secondly, the judgment concerns the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, opened for signature 18 March 1965, 575 UNTS 159 (entered into force 14 October 1966) (Investment Convention), which is given the force of law in Australia by s 32 of the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth).

Stewart J framed the issue for consideration as follows (at [2]):

[I]s a foreign state immune from the recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award made under the Investment Convention notwithstanding that the Investment Convention inherently envisages arbitration awards being made against foreign states and it provides that such awards “shall” be recognised and enforced by Australian courts?

The judgment also contains useful consideration of the distinctions between recognition, enforcement and execution in the context of a common law system.


The underlying dispute was triggered by a change in Spain’s position on subsidies and regulation concerning renewable energy, and the applicant companies’ investments in renewable energy projects in Spain before that change. The changes caused substantial harm to the value of the investments of the applicants, which are incorporated in England & Wales, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Before ICSID tribunals the applicants argued that Spain failed to accord fair and equitable treatment to their investments in breach of Art 10(1) of The Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), opened for signature 17 December 1994, 2080 UNTS 95 (entered into force 16 April 1998). They were successful. Spain was ordered to pay hundreds of millions of Euros across two awards.

Spain then made applications for the annulment of the awards, which included stays of enforcement. For a time, each award was stayed. (In Australia, this resulted in a temporary stay of enforcement proceedings: see Infrastructure Services Luxembourg S.A.R.L v Kingdom of Spain [2019] FCA 1220). The stays were then discontinued, allowing enforcement action to proceed in Australia. At the time of writing, Spain had not complied with the awards in whole or in part.

Enforcement of the ICSID awards in Australia

The Commonwealth of Australia is a generally arbitration-friendly jurisdiction. Part IV of the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth) deals with the Investment Convention. Section 33(1) provides the basic proposition ‘that [a]n award is binding on a party to the investment dispute to which the award relates’, while s 35 provides that awards may be enforced through the Federal Court of Australia.

How, then, could Spain challenge enforcement of the ICSID awards? It asserted immunity under s 9 of the Foreign States Immunities Act 1985 (Cth), which provides foreign States with general immunity from the jurisdiction of Australian courts. An exception to the general position is provided in s 10(1) for proceedings in respect of which a foreign State has submitted.

The applicant companies argued that the Investment Convention excludes any claim for foreign state immunity in proceedings for the recognition and enforcement of an award. The Court was thus asked to consider whether, ‘by being a Contracting Party to the ECT and a Contracting State to the Investment Convention, Spain submitted to the arbitrations under the Investment Convention which produced the awards they seek to enforce’: [179]. The Court held that Spain had submitted. There was no inconsistency between the Foreign States Immunities Act 1985 (Cth) and the enforcement of the Investment Convention via the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth).

The Court thus recognised each of the awards. Spain was ordered to pay the applicant companies hundreds of millions of Euros, plus interest, and costs—the scope of which are still to be determined.

Comments on recognition, enforcement and execution

According to Stewart J, ‘[t]he distinction between recognition and enforcement, on the one hand, and execution on the other, is central to [the] reasons’: [6]. The judgment contains dicta that will be useful for teaching private international law in Australia. There is a helpful passage at [89] ff:

Recognition is a distinct and necessarily prior step to enforcement, but recognition and enforcement are closely linked: Briggs A, The Conflict of Laws (3rd ed, Oxford University Press, Clarendon Series, 2013) 140-141; Clarke v Fennoscandia Ltd [2007] UKHL 56; 2008 SC (HL) 122 at [18]-[23].  An award may be recognised without being “enforced” by a court: TCL Air Conditioner (Zhongshan) Co Ltd v Judges of the Federal Court of Australia [2013] HCA 5; 251 CLR 533 at [23].  Examples would be where an award is recognised as giving rise to res judicata, issue estoppel, cause of action estoppel or set-off, or as a claim in an insolvent estate.  See Associated Electric and Gas Insurance Services Ltd v European Reinsurance Co of Zurich [2003] UKPC 11; [2003] 1 WLR 1041 at [15] as an example of recognition by estoppel.

An arbitral award is enforced through the means of the entering of a judgment on the award, either in the form of a money judgment for the amount of an award or for damages for failing to honour an award.  That form of enforcement by a court is an exercise of judicial power: TCL at [32].  There is some debate in the authorities as to whether an award can be enforced by means of a court making a declaration.  See Tridon Australia Pty Ltd v ACD Tridon Inc [2004] NSWCA 146 and AED Oil Ltd v Puffin FPSO Ltd [2010] VSCA 37; 27 VR 22 at [18]-[20].  It is not necessary to enter upon that debate for present purposes because Art 54(3) of the Investment Convention requires the enforcement of only the pecuniary obligations of an award.  That would seem to exclude declaratory awards, injunctions and orders for specific performance.

An award cannot, however, be executed, in the sense of executed against the property of an award debtor, without first being converted into a judgment of a court: Uganda Telecom Ltd v Hi-Tech Telecom Pty Ltd (No 2) [2011] FCA 206; 277 ALR 441 at [12]-[13].  Nevertheless, it is not a strain of language to refer to an award being enforced by way of execution.

Thus, depending on the context, reference to the enforcement of an arbitral award can be used to mean the entering of a judgment on the award to the exclusion of execution or it can mean execution, or it can encompass both.

Recognition and enforcement by judgment on the award is equivalent to what is referred to in civilian jurisdictions as exequatur (see Firebird at [47]-[48] and Briggs A, The Conflict of Laws (3rd ed, Oxford University Press, Clarendon Series, 2013), 139).


Eiser Infrastructure Ltd v Kingdom of Spain provides plenty to think about for those interested in private international law, public international law, and international arbitration. It confirms the intuition that ICSID awards should be easily enforced in Australia.

However, it begs the question, why Australia? Stewart J speculated that the CJEU’s decision in Slovak Republic v Achmea BV [2018] 4 WLR 87, [60] may have made Australia a more attractive forum for enforcement proceedings in these cases. However, should Spain have any assets in Australia, it may be difficult for the successful companies to get access to them. The High Court of Australia takes a foreign-State-friendly approach to immunity of execution over foreign States’ property. It will be interesting to see what happens next in this dispute.

“Promoting Foreign Judgments: Lessons in Legal Convergence from South Africa and Nigeria” (Kluwer Law International B.V. 2019)

Pontian N. Okoli has provided the following extensive summary of the findings of his book, which is a revised version of his PhD thesis, completed at the University of Dundee.

In 2019, the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil or Commercial matters came into being. It is a clear reflection of determined efforts to produce a global legal framework that can support the free movement of foreign judgments. One index of success concerning the 2019 Convention would be whether it promotes the free movement of foreign judgments in different parts of the world including Africa. Time will tell. For now, it is necessary to reduce the impediments to the free movement of foreign judgments on at least two levels: first, between African and non-African jurisdictions; and second, between African jurisdictions. The legal frameworks that concern both levels are essentially the same in most African jurisdictions. There is no African legal framework that is equivalent to the Brussels legal regime on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in the European Union.  Thus, litigants need to consider relevant legal frameworks in each country. Foreign judgment creditors must be conversant with appropriate laws to ensure recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Nigeria and South Africa are two major examples of African jurisdictions where such awareness is required. 

Nigeria and South Africa are important for several reasons including their big economies and the fact that they are major political players in their respective regions and have significant influence on the African continent. They also make for interesting comparative study –Nigerian jurisprudence is based on the English common law while South African jurisprudence is mixed – based on Roman Dutch law with a significant influence of English law. Also, Nigeria is not a member of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, but South Africa has been a member since 2002. Understanding why these two jurisdictions adopt their individual approaches to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments is critical to unlocking the potential to have rewarding relations with Africa in this regard. It is important to understand what brings both jurisdictions together and what separates both, with a view to determining how common perspectives to foreign judgments enforcement may be attained.

There are several bases for legal convergence. Both jurisdictions have two major legal frameworks on foreign judgments – statutory law and the common law. This two-track system is common in Africa and many parts of the Commonwealth including the United Kingdom which has more than one statute (and the common law) on foreign judgments. In Nigeria, there is still significant uncertainty as to which legal framework should apply to relevant cases. Nigerian case law clearly shows that statutory law remains the most important guide for litigants. Essentially, Nigeria relies on a statute of nearly a century old (the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act 1922 — Chapter 175, Laws of the Federation and Lagos 158). Conversely, statutory law is of less practical importance in South Africa where the Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act 32 of 1988 has been extended to Namibia only. 

The comparative study finds that it is generally easier for judgment creditors to enforce foreign judgments in South Africa than in Nigeria. Although there is much to discuss concerning legal uncertainties considering the confusing legal framework in Nigeria, case law demonstrates that the South African attitude to recognition and enforcement foreign judgments is instructive. A liberal legal framework that promotes the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments should be founded in judicial and legislative attitudes that promote the free movement of foreign judgments. In this context, the theories that underpin the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are critical. The theories form the common foundation to which jurisdictions around the world can relate. 

The statutory frameworks on foreign judgments are relatively recent. For example, the main Nigerian statute on the subject was patterned on the 1920 UK on the Administration of Justice Act. However, foreign judgments were already being enforced in other jurisdictions as long ago as the nineteenth century through case law (such as Schibsby v Westenholz [1870] LR QB 155 and Hilton v Guyot 159 US 118 [1895]) which reflected the theories that underpin the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. The theories of reciprocity, obligation and comity have been applied with varying degrees of success in different jurisdictions. These theories either clearly apply to Nigerian and South African contexts (for example, through specific legislative provisions in Nigeria) or they have been discussed by the courts in both jurisdictions. The first step should be an agreement on what should drive the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Each of these theories has been criticised rather substantially, and it may be difficult to build on any ‘pure theory’.  It would be helpful to adopt an approach that encourages the free movement of foreign judgments subject to a consideration of State interests. Such an approach would attach some degree of obligation in the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments subject to narrow gaps for defence. This can be illustrated through the application of public policy to frustrate the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Such an obligation should be qualified. Apart from drawing on an analysis of the major theories on the subject, adopting this qualified obligation approach has the benefit of a universal standpoint that is shaped by practical and political realities. This is more pragmatic than strictly applying any traditional theory that is entirely constructed within a legal culture or legal system.

Litigants should expect the enforcement of foreign judgments to be the rule rather than an exception. Fairness requires a consideration of litigant and State interests. Any approach that considers only one (or one at the expense of the other) is unlikely to be fair or acceptable to many jurisdictions including those in Africa. Already, the jurisprudence in both countries suggests that it would be fair to recover debts and there is scope to presume that foreign judgments should be enforced. This perspective of fairness has greatly influenced South African jurisprudence, and this may also partly account for why there is greater success in attempts to enforce foreign judgments even when the law is contested or may at first seem unclear. An example is Richman v Ben-Tovim 2007 (2) SA 203 where the respondent did not dispute the debt but argued that his mere presence in England was an insufficient basis for the English court to exercise jurisdiction. The South African Court of Appeal, however, considered that a ‘realistic approach’ was necessary and enforced the foreign judgment.  Although some scholars may criticise this judgment for endorsing ‘mere presence’ jurisdiction as it divides common law and civil law systems, the rationale behind the decision is instructive. If a ‘realistic approach’ is to be found, then there is a need to reflect on how to reduce the technicalities that impede the free movement of foreign judgments. Efforts to attain an effective global legal framework that African countries will find useful requires a realistic approach that factors in contextual realities. This realistic approach permeates other aspects of the process that leads to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Nigeria and South Africa.

An important contextual reality is the characterisation process. How the Nigerian or South African courts characterise a foreign judgment can make a great difference in terms of recognition and enforcement. The way forward is not to create more categories, but to focus on how the foreign judgment may be enforced subject to considerations of fairness to both the litigants and the State. This perspective of ‘cosmopolitan fairness’ also facilitates the attainment of practical solutions in issues that concern jurisdictional grounds. To ensure a realistic approach, and in considering a fair approach for litigants and the State, it is critical to reflect on what ultimate end should be attained. If that end is promoting the free movement of foreign judgments, then it is reasonable to put the onus on the judgment debtor. This does not mean that foreign judgments would be enforced regardless of potential injustice or unfairness to the judgment debtor. However, placing the onus on the judgment debtor implies that the application of jurisdictional grounds should be based on promoting the free movement of foreign judgments. At least four traditional bases of jurisdiction are common to Nigeria and South Africa: mere presence, residence, domicile and submission. A new perspective to this subject may consider what purpose each jurisdictional ground should serve and the aims that should be achieved. The Nigerian legal framework, in principle, reflects this approach of considering jurisdictional grounds in a progressive and purposive manner. In Nigeria, doing business or carrying on business is a common thread that runs through all the jurisdictional grounds. There is also a patchwork of jurisprudence concerning individual grounds of jurisdiction. In South Africa, residence needs to be ascertained on a case-by-case basis as neither Nigerian nor South African statutory laws define residence. 

In the context of jurisdictional grounds, the lack of interpretational certainty in both countries suggests that there is considerable scope to adopt any approach or combination of approaches that helps to solve problems in a practical way. In dealing with impediments to enforcing foreign judgments in a manner that ensures sustainable progress, there should be a clear consideration of systematic flexibility. In other words, fine demarcations in the context of traditional jurisdictional grounds may not be of practical help in efforts to facilitate the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Any bias against a jurisdictional ground should be re-evaluated in a manner that factors in contextual realities. There should be a consideration of international commercial realities and in a fast-evolving global order that is driven by increasingly complex international commercial transactions. Any approach that focuses on territorial considerations vis-à-vis jurisdictional grounds does not reflect this global order in which increased movement, complex international commercial transactions and the borderless nature of the Internet are important features. This global order requires a result-oriented approach rather than a recourse to any traditional approach that is driven by technicalities. For example, the question should not be whether a judgment debtor was ‘present’ in the foreign country but what would amount to presence that is effective for the purposes of enforcing foreign judgments. This reasoning may be replicated for residence or domicile as well. 

The need for a ‘realistic approach’ also extends to public policy. There are clear foundations in Nigerian and South African law that support a narrow application of public policy during legal proceedings to recognise and enforce foreign judgments. This is so although there have been significant interpretational difficulties in both jurisdictions and judgment debtors try to frustrate the enforcement of foreign judgments by relying on defences that are anchored to public policy. For example, characterising damages awarded by the foreign court as compensatory rather than punitive could help to ensure judgment creditors do not go away empty-handed. This is especially so where such judgment creditors are entitled to realising their foreign judgments. 

Legal certainty and predictability cannot be driven by a purely circumstantial application of legal principles or consideration of legal issues. But it is also true that the law should not stand still. In this regard, it is instructive that Nigeria and South Africa have areas of possible legal convergence even though they operate considerably different legal cultures. However, the domestic jurisprudence of their different legal cultures does not undermine their common perceptions of fairness and the need to enforce foreign judgments. What is lacking considerably is the right attitude to ensure that the laws already in existence are interpreted progressively and purposively. This requires a robust institutional approach that is driven by the courts. Of course, clear and certain statutory laws should be in place to promote the free movement of foreign judgments. However, legal comparative analysis concerning Nigeria and South Africa demonstrates that the use of statutory laws does not necessarily guarantee legal certainty. The relative success of South Africa in enforcing foreign judgments has been driven by the courts considering the common law. Statutory law has been extended to only one African country. Any foreign legal instrument or convention (at the global or regional level) cannot function effectively without courts that are inclined to recognise and enforce foreign judgments. For example, article 10 of the 2019 Judgments Convention provides that the court addressed may refuse the recognition or enforcement of a foreign judgment if the damages do not actually compensate a judgment debtor for actual loss suffered. The role of the courts is critical to the success of such legal provisions.

The possibility of African countries such as Nigeria (that are not members of the Hague Conference) ratifying the 2019 Convention cannot be discounted. There is a growing trend of countries signing up to Hague Conventions even though they are not members of the Conference. However, both African and non-African countries require robust legal and institutional frameworks that will support the free movement of foreign judgments. Such legal frameworks should be anchored to an appropriate paradigm shift where necessary.