Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Justice Emmanuel Nkea is the eye of the storm

Justice Emmanuel Nkea, a Cameroonian judge in the Special Criminal Court, is the new eye of the storm in the Gambian judiciary.  He replaced former Justice Wowo, the Nigerian Chief Justice who was fired a month after taking office.  Justice Wowo was the indisputable linchpin of the Yaya Jammeh rigged justice system prior to his elevation to the Supreme Court.  He made sure jammeh enemies were firmly locked up at Mile II prisons.  He was the 'go to' guy to a repressive regime that viewed the judiciary as an indispensable tool in maintaining the dictatorship in power.

Justice Nkea is as proactive on the bench as he's off it.  He is a political wheeler dealer who used to take instructions from Jammeh and his cronies on all the politically-driven cases.  Even after the Wowo dismissal which saw the appointment of Ghanaian-born Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang that drew international attention to rogues judges like Wowo and Nkea, the Special Criminal Court judge has tried to give the appearance of acting professionally by granting bail to those who've committed bailable offences, as opposed to in the past when they were all denied bail.  Most, including Nkea, try to be in their best behavior while the focus is on them.  However, there are instances when old habits die hard, as in the case of Amadou Sanneh and two others charged and held in custody.  Nkea must still ensure that Yaya Jammeh gets his way with the accused by sending them to prison regardless of the facts in the case.

Amadou Sanneh and two others were unashamedly paraded before national television to confess a crime that the government dubbed the 'visa scam' case, even when Amadou Sanneh displayed visible signs of torture who also appeared to be in a daze, probably the after effects of drugs or a result of the beating he's suffered at the hands of the notorious National Intelligence Agency.   Mr. Sanneh, who is the National Treasurer of the main opposition party, the United Democratic Party, and one of the heir apparent to the current leadership, is accused of writing an affidavit for supporters to seek asylum abroad.  The case is being pursued despite the fact that the confessions were extracted from the defendants through torture, and the public and false accusations by Yaya Jammeh that the UDP is a tribalist party bent on destabilizing The Gambia.

Amnesty International has come out in support of the three accused.  "In The Gambia," writes Lisa Sherman Nicholaus, an Amnesty International researcher, "criticizing the government often carries an enormous cost. Forcing political opponents to 'confess' to crimes on national television seems to be the latest callous strategy by authorities to prevent anyone from criticizing them."  Any evidence collected under torture must not be admitted in court which is the internationally accepted norm which happens to be also the position of Amnesty International.

The two defendants confessed, one to concocting the story that formed the basis of the affidavit and the other to notarizing the affidavit.  They are due for sentencing but not before Amadou Sanneh is due in court. Justice Nkea, meanwhile, denied him bail because of the games he's played in this case.  He made sure the two defendants admit to what they were being accused of after being tortured, but delayed sentencing so that he can justify denying the first defendant bail.  He may also refuse to plea bargain with the two even after they cooperated with the prosecution.  This legal maneuver is typical, and expected of a judge who has been accused of being in the pocket of the dictator.  After all, this is same judge who sentenced a Gambian activist to life imprisonment for distributing T-shirts with the inscription that denounced dictatorship in The Gambia, and who had freed two security officers charged with the torturing to death of a youth caught smoking marijuana.  Nkea would not have freed these murderers if they were not part of the security apparatus the state uses to suppress dissent.

This blog has dedicated itself to monitoring the judiciary, particularly the performance of those judges within the system that distinguishes themselves as 'mercenary judges', and to bring their behavior and judicial comportment to the attention of the appropriate authorities in their home countries and international organizations that monitor the legal profession.  Meanwhile, we take note that 5 judges from the sub-region are presently in Banjul to attend the Supreme Court sittings.  We hope that this will be extended to include lower court sittings, particularly the Special Criminal Court headed by Justice Emmanuel Nkea of Cameroon.