The Gambia Bar Association has among its primary aims and objectives the following key purposes:
To maintain the standards, integrity, honour and independence of the Bar, to promote, preserve and improve the services and functions of the Bar, and to represent and act for the Bar generally as well as in matters affecting the administration of justice;
To defend and uphold freedom, justice and the rule of law in The Gambia;
To maintain and defend the honour, independence and integrity of the legal profession;
To maintain and defend the independence of the judiciary.
Consequently the members of the Bar have restated their unwavering commitment to uphold these principles and to live up to aspirations of the Gambian people and the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.
It is in this spirit that the Gambia Bar Association issued a Petition to the Honourable Chief Justice and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice on the 28th of January 2017 when it discovered that the former Chief Justice Fagbenle had convened a meeting of the Judicial Services Commission for the purpose of renewing the contracts of 10 judges that were appointed by President Yahya Jammeh.
This petition was issued before the Honourable Minister of Justice, Abubakar M.Tambadou and Honourable Chief Justice, Hassan B. Jallow assumed office. The petition is yet to be responded to.
It must be stated unequivocally that the Gambia Bar Association welcomes all Legal Practitioners from all over the world. Indeed the Bar has amongst its members nationals from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom and other nations.
In particular the Bar and the Gambian Legal system are heavily indebted to and grateful for the assistance provided by the sister Republic of Nigeria, Ghana and the Commonwealth of Nations through technical assistance in the Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice. Through this assistance, nationals from all over Africa, Europe and Asia have enriched the legal sector of The Gambia.
The Bar eagerly looks forward to new technical assistance in these areas where local capacity is lacking.
The steps taken by the Bar are solely as a result to its adherence to its stated objectives and not to primitive prejudices such as xenophobia that are alien to our profession and our country.
In its petition The Gambia Bar Association stated in no uncertain terms that in this new era of freedom and democracy in The Gambia, the judiciary must critically study the status quo with genuine introspection and good faith before deciding on the way forward in the best interest of The Gambia.
Specifically, the unjust and reprehensible practices in the Jammeh regime which the GBA petitioned against were:
- Appointment of Judges on limited term limit contracts and thereby making them beholden to the contracting party (their employer).
The Judicial Services Commission giving itself the power to appoint or renew the contract of a Judges. The appointment of Judges on private contracts (outside the Technical Assistance Bilateral Treaty) without transparency and public scrutiny. The process of selection and screening of the appointees was frought with anomalies, opaque and not in the best interest of the Administration of Justice system. In particular:
i) None of the said Judges were previous holders of Judicial office. Their lack of experience and competence was apparent and abundantly displayed in varieties of recorded proceedings and judgments.
ii) There was no evidence of their formal training to hold the office of a Judge and to the best of our knowledge information and belief, most of the said appointees were not actively engaged in litigation practice prior to their appointment.
iii) The GBA and the public were not given an opportunity to screen or provide comment on the qualifications of the appointees.
iv) To the best of our knowledge, information and belief, the method of identification and selection of these candidates were entirely subjective and in the sole discretion of the erstwhile Attorney General and Chief Justice. Both of these persons, in our mind did not, at the time, hold the appropriate professional independence and good faith in the exercise of their duties.
3. That the composition of the JSC from 2009 to date has not been in line with the Constitution. Former President Jammeh had handpicked one lawyer to sit on the Judicial Services Commission thereby depriving the GBA oversight of its activities.
In its petition the Gambia Bar Association appealed to the incoming Chief Justice and Minister of Justice to uphold the Constitution by, as a start, ensuring that a Legal Practitioner, appointed b