Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Gambian Bar and Bench are also on trial

It is rather unfortunate that it had to take the death in custody of Solo Sandeng, the torture and alleged rape of Nogoi Njie, Fatou Camara and Fatoumata Jawara for the international community to finally put everyone on notice i.e. Jammeh, the Bar and Bench .

The dictatorial regime of Yaya Jammeh, including senior security personnel and torturers at the NIA, the bar and the bench have all been serve notice, directly or indirectly by the international furor generated by the recent political events that resulted in the European Parliament's resolution that lists among other sanctions that Member States may apply against the regime of Yaya Jammeh.  Targeted sanctions, including travel ban on senior officials of the regime, including torturers are in the cards.

Deep concerns have been expressed about the rapidly-worsening security and human rights situation. The European Parliament resolution deplored the attacks of the 14th and 16th April 2016 against peaceful demonstrators and called for the immediate release of all protesters arrested during the demonstrations for electoral reforms.

International outrage did not stop at the European Parliament. Gambia's own Attorney General and Minister of Justice came under fire, early in the month, at the Pan-African Parliament an African Union's own organ headquartered in Midrand, South Africa.  The appropriateness of her presence at the Pan-African Parliament to make a presentation on the subject of human and women's right was questioned by the Ghanaian member Muntaka Muhamed Mubarak by quoting from a United Nations report which found that torture was a "consistent practice by the authorities"in The Gambia.

Justice Ottaba's recent online radio interview when he discussed particulars of the Ousianou Darboe's case that was before his court and the subsequent fallout that led him to recuse himself from the case and other further repercussions that are expected from the aftermath have drawn more international attention to both the Gambian Bench and Bar.  The Gambia Bar Association's cozy relations with the dictatorship that has subjected Gambians to the worst kind of human rights abuses that include. but not limited to forced disappearances, assassinations and attempted assassinations, torture, exile and extra-judicial executions.

In many countries, it is the Bar Association that is usually the first line of defense against human rights abuses by regimes like the one we have in The Gambia - a regime whose arsenal is full of dark and sinister methods of eliminating its enemies - real and perceived - that it has earned the well-deserved title of the North Korea of Africa.  We are not using a broad brush to castigate the Bar Association. We know there are a few of you who have been defending victims of the regime on pro bono basis.  A more pro-active role in the area of human rights advocacy is needed.

The entire world is now watching Gambia.  It is up to the Bar Association to step up to the plate and stand with the people and not with a vile, corrupt and incompetent regime.

As far as the Bench is concerned, we have written a great deal and have expressed our concerns - and disgust, at times - at the mercenary judges that the Director of Public Prosecution has assembled from his recruitment drives in Nigeria and Cameroon.  The alumni from this group of judges is the 'who is who' of the most corrupt and incompetent judges one can find who did the bidding for Yaya Jammeh for most of his 22-years of dictatorship.

The Nigerian authorities and professional bodies are aware of their activities in the Gambian judiciary through our blog and other social media outlets.  We will continue to file reports with the appropriate authorities and to redouble our advocacy efforts against injustice and in support and promotion of democracy and the rule of law.