Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Gambian judiciary is weapon of mass incarceration

The Gambian dictator
Justice Minister Singhateh

In leading the swearing in ceremony of the Justice Minister and Attorney General for the second time in five months, the Gambian dictator lamented, hypocritically, the slow wheel of justice and why it is necessary to expedite the handling of cases in the courts.   To the casual observer, the comment is reasonable and appropriate.  To the keen follower of Gambian affairs, Jammeh's statement is self-serving and downright hypocritical.  He has perfected the use of the judiciary as a potent weapon against his opponents to deadly effectiveness.

Magistrates and judges are under the thumb of the Gambian dictator who controls the flow and processing of cases, be they criminal, political or civil in which the regime has a stake in or Jammeh has a personal business interest.   It is therefore hypocritical of him to lament at every swearing-in of the past decade of the slow pace of justice in The Gambia when he's in total charge of the judiciary and its processes.  Most, if not all magistrates and judges, are compromised in a dictatorship that has successfully transformed into a potent weapon of mass incarceration of those viewed as opposed to or refuse to cooperate with Yaya Jammeh.

The jails are filled with persons who have been there for 15 years or more without being charged. And those who've been charged are still in remand with no idea when they will be brought before a judge or magistrate.  Most are victims of torture and malnutrition and are left to languish under conditions so horrifying that the recent two-person United Nation's Rapporteur Mission to The Gambia were denied access to the security wing of the prison because of the regime's fear of the horrors the UN will see in those cells.

The Gambian courts ate littered with victims of the dictatorship, ranging from Imams who decided to observe the Muslim Eid prayers on a day different from the one declared by the Gambian dictator to half a dozen Gambian agriculturalists and project managers, one of whom has spent the last one year and a half trying to prove his innocence because he returned approximately $ 60,000 of unspent balance of grant money to the European Development Fund via the World Bank at the close of a project.  The regime considers this action as "economic crime."  Only in The Gambia.

It is a very common site to be freed and absolved of all charges only to be rearrested at the steps of the courts, and instead of going to your loved ones, you are returned to the notorious Mile II prisons to await fresh concocted charges. In other occasions, the vindicated culprit will enjoy freedom for days and weeks until the dictator notices you in traffic and ordered for your re-arrest.  As we speak Jammeh former Finance Minster, Ambassador and Head of the Civil Service is being held without charge when Jammeh reportedly spotted him in traffic and ordered his rearrest after being previously acquitted by a court of two charges.  The former Minister is being held without charge for 70 days and counting.