Saturday, 01 September 2012 14:27Dear Justice Minister Jobarteh,
(Mailbag) – Gambian Courts Possibly Not Competent in “All” Gambian Death Row Cases??
First of all, may I belatedly take this opportunity to congratulate you on being elevated to the position of State Minister of the Republic of The Gambia.
Last time we met you were a defence lawyer and represented me for a day when I was brought into Kanifing Magistrates Court from a 14-day detention charged with “Sedition”! (You were also on that day appearing for Ms. Fatou Jaw Manneh of Maafanta.com who was also in court). Of course, the “sedition” charges against me were trumped-up nonsense and were soon dropped at the insistence of the then Justice Minister, but that is not what I write to you about.
I write to you about your recent statement in my former publication, the Daily Observer, in which you defend the mass executions of Death Row inmates in The Gambia. In particular, I refer to your statement that “all persons on the death row have been tried by the Gambian courts of competent jurisdiction”, and the omission in your statement of an explanation of “subsection (2)” of Section 18 of the 1997 Constitution. I am of course a novice in matters legal and will humbly welcome any corrections that you may be generous enough to impart.
In the Daily Observer, you state as follows:
“The laws of the Gambia on death penalty are very clear and provide under Section 18 (1) of the constitution of the Republic of the Gambia which states that no Person shall be deprived of his or her life intentionally; except in the execution of a sentence of death imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of criminal offence for which the penalty is death under the laws of the Gambia as they have effects in accordance with subsection 2 of which he or she has lawfully been convicted in due compliance with the provisions of the law as above … it follows that all persons on the death row have been tried by the Gambian courts of competent jurisdiction and whereof convicted and sentenced to death in accordance with the law.”
If I may expand on your above statement, Honourable Minister, Section 18 subsection (2) of the 1997 Constitution, which you mention but do not go into, states as follows:
“After the coming into force of this constitution, no court in the Gambia shall be competent to impose a sentence of death for any offence unless the sentence is prescribed by law and the offence involves violence, or the administration of any toxic substance, resulting in the death of another person.”
It appears then that many people, such as General Tamba and colleagues who were accused of “planning a coup” and are on Death Row in Mile Two, have NOT been "lawfully convicted … in accordance with the law" since they have NOT killed anyone. And the courts that sentenced them are according to the Gambian Constitution NOT “competent to impose a death sentence” because their offences DO NOT “involve violence, or the administration of any toxic substance, resulting in the death of another person”.
Written by Dida Jallow-Halake, Notting Hill UK.
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