Honorable Justice Maria do Céu Silva Monteiro, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of Guinea-Bissau, who served as President of the ECOWAS Court from 2014 to 2016, officially inaugurated the awareness campaign for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court in the country.

Justice Silva Monteiro conveyed her appreciation to the Court for launching the campaign aimed at improving the understanding of the Court’s tools among citizens, particularly those within the legal field. Recognizing the crucial function of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in economic integration and the protection of human rights, the Minister commended its dedication to upholding the integrity of the legal system within the community.

She also highlighted the advantages of community law, such as its precedence, prompt enforceability, and direct impact and stressed the importance of continuous education for local stakeholders and wider distribution of the community’s legal structure to successfully advance integration objectives.

She lauded the sensitization campaign as a significant step towards the goals, expressing optimism that participants of the various sessions will seize the opportunity.

Expressing full willingness of the government of Guinea Bissau to support such initiatives, the Minister officially opened the event.

Earlier, the Vice President of the Court and Head of the delegation, Honorable Justice Gbéri-Bè Ouattara, said the campaign, the first by the Court in the country since 2015 is an important annual activity of the Court in Member States intended to engage with the various stakeholders on the mandate, jurisdiction and access to the Court.

Justice Ouattara stated that the campaign has been organized to address the specific  requirements of various target groups, including judges and judicial personnel, women’s groups, lawyers, students, the media, law professors, as well as the police, immigration, and customs officials. He added that the campaign’s goal was to engage with all the stakeholders, to discuss the court’s mandate and access.

The Vice-President expressed hope that the campaign would not only enhance awareness of the Court among citizens of Guinea Bissau but also empower them to recognize the opportunities the Court offers for protecting their human rights in accordance with its mandate.

A goodwill message was also delivered by the President of the Bar Association, Januario Pedro Correia. He described the programme as an important  platform for familiarizing the lawyers, most of whom are ignorant of the Court, to its peculiarities, particularly in the area of human rights that has become its preeminent mandate. He hoped that the Court could assist in reducing the increasing occurrences of human rights violations in the country. He stated, “To safeguard economic rights, we must first ensure the protection of human rights.” Finally, Mr. Correia urged the Court to set up a legal aid scheme to help the indigents access the Court.

The five-day program started with courtesy visits to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the Chief Justice, the Solicitor General, the President of the Bar Association.

The outreach will include a session for judges on Friday 23 February 2024 to discuss relationships between the ECOWAS Court and national courts. The campaign also includes two special sessions: one for lawyers, law lecturers and students and another for representatives of human rights organizations, women groups and the general public. A press conference will conclude the outreach campaign.

The delegation also includes three other judges, Justices Dupe Atoki, Sengu Mohamed Koroma  and Ricardo Cláudio Monteiro Gonçalves as well as staff of the Court.