A two-day training program aimed at familiarizing lawyers and law students from Sierra Leone with the ECOWAS Court of Justice commenced on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Freetown.

This initiative, organized jointly by the ECOWAS Court and the Sierra Leone Bar Association (SLBA), is part of the 2024 international conference of the Court, which began earlier in the week.

Approximately 150 participants are benefiting from the training, which is designed to equip them with essential skills for practicing before the ECOWAS Court and to enhance their understanding of the Court’s jurisdiction and specific procedures.

At the opening ceremony, the Chief Registrar of the Court, Dr. Yaouza Ouro-Sama, expressed gratitude to the SLBA leadership for their role in organizing the training. Representing the President of the Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, Dr. Ouro-Sama commended the participants for their interest and clarified the Court’s function, emphasizing that it is not an appellate court over national courts but relies on them for the enforcement of its decisions.

“The essence of this program is to create awareness about the Court, its mandate, jurisdiction, access, practice, and procedure, as well as enforcement of decisions,” Dr. Ouro-Sama stated. He highlighted that the training addresses a noted lack of awareness among local lawyers who have appeared before the Court, aiming to fill this knowledge gap for more effective engagement.

Ms. Eddinia Michaela Swallow, President of the SLBA, highlighted that one of her main objectives is to prioritize the training of Bar members. She viewed the presence of Court officials for the 2024 conference as a valuable opportunity to further this goal. Ms. Swallow described the ECOWAS Court as a critical recourse for lawyers when national court decisions are unfavorable, urging participants to focus and leverage the sessions to deepen their understanding.

The training featured four key presentations by experts from the Court’s Registry and Research and Documentation departments. Ms. Oluwatosin Nguher, Senior Research Officer, provided “An Overview of the Court,” while Mr. Nketiah Apraku, Head of Legal Services and Research, discussed “Access to the Court and its Jurisdiction.” Mrs. Zara Carew-Sabo, Assistant Registrar of Judicial Process and Case Management, detailed the “Practice and Procedure of the Court.” Finally, Mr. Gaye Sowe, Registrar of Appeals, Arbitration, and Enforcement, presented on the “Enforcement of the Court’s Judgments.” Each presentation aimed to offer a comprehensive understanding of the Court’s framework.

Interactive discussions and a question-and-answer session followed the presentations, engaging participants and deepening their comprehension of the Court’s functions.

The training, held at the Freetown International Conference Center, aligns with the conference theme, “Enhancing the Role, Relevance, and Effectiveness of the ECOWAS Court of Justice through Strengthening Synergies between the Court and National Stakeholders.” This initiative reflects a concerted effort to bolster the legal community’s proficiency in navigating the ECOWAS Court system and ensuring effective legal practice within the region.