36 C
City of Banjul
Tuesday, January 26, 2021

‘Access to justice key feature of democracy’

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Speaking on behalf of President Jammeh at the handing-over ceremony of the newly-refurbished Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Chambers building Wednesday evening, he said: “The rule of law and the maintenance of law and order are universally considered as some of the fundamental prerequisite for a meaningful broad-based development in any society. In other words, it is widely believed that a well-functioning law and justice institutions are critical to social and economic development. Many will agree that this assumption is grounded in both theory and empirical evidence, and has gained widespread acceptance among social scientists and development professionals.” 

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He said there is however another assumption also supported by theory and evidence, that “a modern and well-functioning legal system could be a product of economic growth, development and modernisation.

“Both of these assumptions are valid, and any one of them could be applicable to different countries given their unique circumstance. In The Gambia, it is clear that the unprecedented developments that have taken place in the country since the beginning of the July 22nd Revolution two decade ago, and more importantly, the instrumental leadership of the president have provided the driving force for the major initiatives that have been implemented to ensure that our legal and judicial institutions, system and services are effective and responsive within the broad framework of our national development agenda.  

“In the past, the whole common law legal system was centered in Banjul and the greater Banjul Area. As a result, the majority of the Gambian population living in regions who were involved in litigation had to commute to Banjul for court proceedings. In fact, even the subordinate courts in the region were manned by travelling magistrates who commute from one station to another for very limited period. This arrangement meant that to a large extent, a citizen’s access to justice was dependent on his or her ability to travel to Banjul from distant places. The July 22nd Revolution has put an end to such anomaly by establishing permanent subordinate courts in all the administrative regions of the country. In addition, for the first time in the history of the Gambia, we have established high courts outside the capital in Brikama and Basse. These developments are important because they represent a significant decentralisation of legal services. As you know, a key function of decentralisation is to bring services closer to the people and thus making government more responsive to the needs of communities and citizens in general. This is an example of true solidarity, which enhances and strengthens the stability of democratic systems.”

Mr Jahumpa said one could not talk about access to justice if the fees charged for legal services are beyond the reach of a large segment of our population.

 Therefore, he observed, ‘it goes without saying that the sustainability of providing timely and effective access to justice depends on a regular supply of local legal professionals.’ 

He said in the government established the National Agency of Legal Aid in The Gambia which has been providing free legal advice and representation to persons charged with serious criminal offence as well as Alternative Dispute Resolution designed to guide the settlement of cases without resorting to litigation.’

Speaking earlier, Justice minister Basirou Mahoney said the beautifully renovated building not only signifies the government’s commitment to infrastructural development but also a renewed commitment to make legal services accessible to all.

“This is in line with our mission statement: ‘To provide legal services to the government and the public in an efficient and effective manner’,” he said.

Minister Mahoney commended the president for his concern and intervention by ensuring continuous development of every sector of his government and in particular his unwavering support to the justice sector.

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