Chief Justice Receives Delegation from the Netherlands

Chief Justice’s Chambers, Law Courts Building, Siaka Stevens Street Freetown, 31st January 2024: Sierra Leone’s Acting Chief Justice, His Lordship Hon. Justice Nicholas C. Browne-Marke has received an expert delegation from the Dutch Document Investigation Unit of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Ministry of Justice and Security based in the Netherlands.

The meeting, according to Angela A.W Trommelen, Senior Document Expert from the Netherlands’ Ministry of Justice and Security, is a fact-finding mission aimed at understanding Sierra Leone’s laws and procedures relating to adoption and the processes involved in prosecuting offenders. She said the role of the Investigation Unit is not to decide who should be granted permit to stay in Holland or not, but to look at the legitimacy of their respective documents and accordingly advise the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“We believe that when people are entitled to a certain permit in our country, we should give it to them. But when they forge their ways into our system, we also have to call them out,” said Angela A.W Trommelen. Madam Trommelen went on to disclose that they have recorded a few cases of a doubtful nature from Sierra Leone, adding that any assistance with understanding documents relating to adoption and the granting of it will be of tremendous help.

“Last year, we investigated over One Hundred and Thirty Thousand (130,000) adoption files. With this, it means that we have limited time to contact countries of origin to verify the legitimacy of documents presented to us,” re-emphasizing that “understanding how these countries’ documents look like in their original form, and with their respective stamps, will enable us to expeditiously determine the legitimacy of those documents.

”In response, the Acting Chief Justice, Hon. Justice Nicholas C. Browne-Marke said an adoption matter in Sierra Leone commences with the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs and then proceeds to the Court and finally ends at the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA).He revealed that an adoption in Sierra Leone can be obtained after the adoptive parent has gone through all legal processes and due diligence on the same is carried out by those involved.

He added that the duty of the Court is to ensure that both the adoptive and biological parents understand the ramifications of adoption, more especially when it comes to transmission of ownership of real property at death, and the, entitlement of the adopted child to have a share in properties owned by the adoptive parent. The consent of the biological parents or guardians is absolutely essential to the whole process.

The Hon. Acting Chief Justice maintained that the role of the Judiciary in all adoption matters is to examine the said application and determine whether or not to grant it based on the facts and evidence presented before the presiding Judge.

“The rate at which citizens of certain countries are adopting children in Sierra Leone is of some concern to this country; and that is why matters of this nature are assigned to experienced Judges,” the Hon. Chief Justice disclosed.

Explaining the legal processes leading to the granting of the Adoption Order and taking the child out of the jurisdiction, the Hon. Chief Justice revealed that Lawyers representing the adoptive parents have to write to the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs; an application has to be filed in Court, and a Court hearing has to be held. Documents which are to be taken, and to be used abroad, have to be notarized by a Notary Public. The application has to be supported by affidavit; and it is only after considering the respective affidavits sworn in support of the application, that the Court would proceed to grant the adoption Order. That order has to be registered at the Registrar-General’s office.

A member of the delegation was Rutger Schaaf, Document Analyst at the Netherlands Ministry of Justice and Security. The visiting team lauded the Hon. Chief Justice for what they described as an educative session.

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