The Gambia’s Institute for the Advancement of Children’s Rights (IACR) has expressed serious concerns at President Adama Barrow’s amnesty to Svein Agesandakar, a convicted paedophile who was serving time in the Gambia for fiddling a number of children.
Svein Åge Sandåker, a Norwegian national, was given a three-year jail term and ordered to pay a D600,000 fine in 2012 for abusing six children, including a three year old. His jail term was extended to another three-years following his inability to pay the court fine.
However, early last week, Mr Barrow shocked the nation by given him an early release as part of events marking the Muslim feast of Eid ul- adha.
The president said the amnesty was based on recommendations from the Attorney General and minister of Justice Abubacarr Tambadou. However, Mr Tambadou has denied recommending his release to the president. He said the pardoning of Svein Åge Sandåker was never brought to his attention for advice and he was not aware of his pardon neither did he make any such recommendation to President Barrow.
He added that he have consistently taken a hard line position on homicide and sexual offences convicts as reflected in all previous pardons in which he participated as a member of the Prerogative of Mercy Committee.
The Gambia’s Institute for the Advancement of Children’s Rights said while it recognises the president’s power to pardon prisoners, the process must be underpinned by transparency, objectivity and thorough consideration of the views and concerns of the victims.
It calls on the Committee for the Exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy to recommend the nullification of Mr Agesandakar‘s amnesty, due to his ‘deplorable’ track record of molesting and abusing young children.
“It is our strong belief that the best interests of children in the Gambia is served by requiring Mr Agesandakar to fully consummate his jail term to help serve as a deterrent to both him and others like him,” said Barrister Malick HB Jallow, president of the organisation.
“Further, upon his release, strong and effective safeguards must be put in place to ensure that he does not engage in sexual activity with children again.”
The organisation reminded Mr Barrow and his government of their international legal commitments and obligations to protect and promote the rights and welfare of the child as enshrined under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).