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Following its accession to the New York Convention in 2020 (discussed in our blog post here), the Sierra Leone House of Parliament has approved a new Arbitration Act. The Arbitration Bill 2022 was introduced in the House by the Deputy Minister of Justice, Hon. Umaru Napoleon Koroma on August 2, 2022. The legislation now awaits the signature of the President of Sierra Leone.
The Arbitration Act 2022 will replace and update the existing Sierra Leone Arbitration Act, contained primarily in Chapter 25 of the Laws of Sierra Leone 1960 (the 1960 Act). The 1960 Act was based on the English Arbitration Act 1950, but does not reflect any changes made since then, including those reflected in the English Arbitration Act 1996.
The new law was originally drafted by the Sierra Leone Law Reform Commission and reviewed by a team of arbitration specialists at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP. In 2021, Professor Abayomi Okubote and the Africa Arbitration Academy developed the draft, and the final draft law was approved by the government and presented to the House of Parliament.
The Arbitration Act 2022 aims to give Sierra Leone’s obligations under the 1958 New York Convention the force of law and provide a modern arbitration framework for the country. In addition to addressing key arbitration principles, the Arbitration Act 2022 addresses more recent developments, such as third-party funding, and provides a legislative basis for the establishment of the Sierra International Arbitration Center Leone.
Arbitration has gained momentum in Sierra Leone in recent years. The legal community in Freetown has a number of experienced practitioners of international arbitration and Sierra Leone has already taken practical steps to lay the foundations for the further development of domestic and international arbitration. In particular, Andrew Cannon, Partner and Hannah Ambrose, Senior Partner, have provided international arbitration training to key legal actors in Freetown on several occasions in recent years, including in the context of the long-term partnership between the UK -Sierra Leone Pro Bono Network and the Sierra Leone Judicial and Legal Training Institute. The Hon. Chief Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards has been a strong proponent of arbitration law reform, notably in his recent keynote speech at the African Arbitration Academy Conference.
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP has been honored to assist Sierra Leone with this development under its Fair Deal Sierra Leone pro bono program, and congratulates all who have been involved in the Sierra Leone Arbitration Act 2022 for this achievement. important.
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