After long detention without trial a member of Imam Sawaneh’s family decided to heed wise counsel by going to the high court to ask for an order to be given for Imam Ousman Sawaneh to be released from unlawful detention.
Under section 19 of the Gambian Constitution no one should be detained for more than 72 hours without appearing before a court and any further detention after any appearance for the same case should be the decision of the court. Imam Sawaneh disappeared since 18 October 2015. On 17 February 2016 the family took the matter to the high court. On 22 March 2016 the court made a decision. Since that day the court’s order has been honoured with utter disregard. This is impunity of the highest order.
Section 17 of the Constitution has ordered for the executive and its agencies to respect and uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Chapter dealing with fundamental rights and freedoms which shall be enforceable by the Courts in accordance with the Constitution. This is the law which should be respected. The power of the courts is exercised by holding those who disobey court orders to be in contempt of court.
Somebody is guilty of contempt. Are they going scot free or will the lawyers and the judicial officers protect the powers and integrity of the courts so that they will be the last resort for protection of fundamental rights and freedoms. Rule of law exists only if the law is respected.