By Kebba Jeffang
“You may or may not be aware but this government has inherited some international cases which were filed against the Gambia as a result of the purported acts of the former government. Consequently, the Gambia now faces a potential legal liability bill in excess of two billion dalasis,” Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou said on Thursday, 23rd March at a press conference held at AG Chambers.
He said the ministry of justice is currently exploring various options for a quick resolution of these cases so that they can put them behind them and focus on the important task of rebuilding and strengthening the justice system of the country.
“The ministry of Justice has also been in contact with some international organisations including Article 19, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the International Bar Association in order to seek support for the justice sector reforms. Minister Tambedou said, “In consultation with the ministry of Information, Communication and Infrastructure, we will be reviewing a draft Memorandum of Understanding on tripartite partnership between the ministry of justice and, The Gambia Press Union and Article 19 in respect of reform of the media laws in the country”.
According to him, his ministry was also able to secure assistance from the International Senior Lawyers Project in specialised areas of legal practice such as preparing, drafting and reviewing international commercial agreements to cover capacity deficit in the ministry in the short term. He disclosed that a senior lawyer will be seconded from this organisation to the ministry very soon at no cost to government.
He continued: “The ministry is on the verge of creating the post of Special Advisor to the Attorney General whose principal responsibility will be to provide policy advice on the justice sector reforms envisaged by the ministry. The post will be funded by the British Government and applications will soon be invited from suitably qualified Gambians to fill the post.”
He said the ministry is also exploring other ways of shoring up capacity at the ministry through donor funding of local support initiatives. He said they are looking at the possibility of hiring members of the private bar on contract as a stop gap measure while the capacity of existing resources within the ministry is being strengthened in key areas.
In terms of ongoing activities at the ministry, Minister Tambadou said the Criminal Case and Detention Review Panel have already started its work. He said the panel was established by the ministry of Justice in consultation with the ministry of the Interior to review and advise the Attorney General regarding the ongoing criminal cases against serving or former public officers, cases linked to a political activity and the cases of all persons awaiting trial in remand.
“The membership of the panel consists of lawyers from the ministry of Justice, staff members from the ministry of Interior, a representative from the Gambia Police Force and The Gambia Prison Service. I have started receiving their recommendations on a rolling basis and I will act based on this,” he said.
“In consultation with President Adama Barrow and my cabinet colleagues, the ministry is in the process of finalising the draft terms of reference for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into the financial and business related activities of the former president. The Commission is expected to start its work soonest,” said the minister.
Meanwhile, the ministry of Justice according to the attorney general will be writing soon to all government departments, agencies and organs advising them to suspend all bilateral contractual engagements with certain identified companies pending a review of the contractual arrangements with them.