PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE ARMED FORCES PLEASE TAKE NOTE!

It is trite law in our jurisdiction that a person accused of committing a crime is presumed innocent until he/she pleads guilty or is proven guilty. This is stated clearly in section 24 of the Constitution thus:

“Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he or she is proved, or has pleaded, guilty.”

Thus when a person is arrested and detained he/she should be seen as a suspect accused of committing an offence yet to be proven by a court. It is the accuser who must come up with evidence to prove that the accused has committed an offence. This is why the suspect or accused is granted bail unless there is reason to believe that he/she may jump bail, may repeat the offence or may interfere with the investigation.

If there are no safeguards for a detainee an authority may order the arrest and detention of a person who has not committed an offence just to persecute the person. This is impunity and this is why there is a safeguard in the Constitution that an arrested person shall not be detained for more than 72 hours without trial. This was rampant in the Jammeh era and President Barrow campaigned to bring an end to impunity. But members of the armed forces are still subjected to detention without trial.

Section 72 states:

“Any person who is arrested or detained –

(a) for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court in execution of the order of a court; or

(b) upon reasonable suspicion of his or her having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence under the law of The Gambia, and who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court and, in any event, within seventy-two hours.”