On 22 July 2015, while commemorating the 21st anniversary of the July 22 take over, President Jammeh announced that he was going to release certain categories of prisoners. Hundreds of prisoners were released.The question arises: Do these pardoned prisoners enjoy the same fundamental freedom as any other citizens as enshrined in the Constitution, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of movement?
According to section 82 subsection (1) paragraph (a) of the Constitution, the President may “grant to any person convicted of any offence a pardon either free or subject to lawful conditions.” The pronouncements made on GRTS and the observation of our reporter at the time of release of the pardoned prisoners on Friday, 24 July showed no indication of conditional release. Moreover, the certificates of the releases that Foroyaa has seen so far indicate unconditional release. All that is indicated is that their sentences are deemed to have expired and are therefore discharged.
In short, all pardoned prisoners ceased to be convicts on the day they were released and are entitled to all the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution, which includes their rights to freedom of association and freedom of movement. In short, section 25 subsection (1)(e) of the Constitution which asserts that, “Every person shall have the right to freedom of freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form and join associations and unions, including political parties and trade unions.” Pardoned prisoners should be left alone to decide whether they wish to stay quiet or be politically involved and should not be pressurised to support any political party.
Furthermore, section 25 subsection (2) states: “Every person lawfully within The Gambia shall have the right to move freely throughout The Gambia, to choose his or her own place of residence within The Gambia, and to leave The Gambia.” This means that those who wish to travel abroad for medical reasons, personal development, employment, etc. are free to do so and need no clearance. All they need is their passport, which they should not be denied. They are free citizens just like any other. They are no longer convicts and must not be seen as such.
Foroyaa will get in touch with the Ministry of the Interior to find out whether they have imposed any restrictions on the pardoned prisoners.