(JollofNews) – Lawyers must stand up for what is true, what is honorable, what is right, what is pure, what is of good repute, what is excellent and worthy of praise, this is the transcendent essence of the lawyers’ oath.
When judges and lawyers hesitate to do the right thing for fear of being derogated for the company they keep, or when they respond to vilification, threats and actual violence with surrender and capitulation, the rule of law is shoved out and impunity steps in our daily lives. Our lawyers are expected to be courageous amid difficult times and to do the right thing, and uphold the rule of law to prevent a culture of impunity from spreading as it prevails under their watch during Yahya Jammeh’s twenty-two years rule.
In a world where ‘alternative facts’ and ‘hyperbole’ are fast blurring the lines between truth and lies, lawyers who can help the courts, clients and the public sift truth from lies performs a valuable service to the citizenry.
The reality of difficult and violent times Gambians find themselves in combating impunity and promoting the rule of law, and the law of hope, the Gambian people expect lawyer’s role bringing out the truth, especially in this age when fake information abounds.
Good lawyers should not hesitate to swim against the tide, by challenging the status quo occasionally, confront traditions that may have taken root through inertia and, if necessary, create new traditions of preventing impunity.
Gambians are not fighting against a person or against an establishment. Rather, Gambians are fighting against a culture, a way of thinking, of seeing, and thus of acting – or not acting.
Impunity, it is a culture that is ingrained and deeply rooted, it is a culture that started when people started to look the other way; a culture that thrived when people stopped caring; a culture that prevailed when people stopped hoping.
To fight this culture, our lawyers must stand up for what is true and what is right, and must speak up and act when others refuse to do the same. They must also continue to hope even when others have given up.
By Alagi Yorro Jallow
The author is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.