The Minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou, has said that government respects the decision of the country’s Supreme Court after it upheld the constitutionality of Public Order Act in its ruling last week.
The superior court threw out a litigation by foreign affairs minister, Ousainou Darboe, challenging the constitutionality of the law former president Yahya Jammeh relied on to incarcerate him and his party officials to a 3-year jail term.
Darboe and his colleagues who have already appealed the ruling at the Appeal Court also filed a case at the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Public Order Act.
They claim that the Public Order Act, which requires people to apply for a police permit before holding any public gathering, is in violation of an entrenched constitutional clause, Section 25, which guarantees rights to association, assembly, conscience and other freedoms such as the right to belong to a religion or academic freedom.
But the five-man panel of judges unanimously ruled that Section 9 of the Public Order Act and Section 69 of the Criminal Code of the Gambia are constitutional and they provide “reasonable restrictions” that are necessary in a democracy.
In his reaction, Justice Minister Tambadou said: “My role here is to state that while we may not agree with the ruling of the Supreme Court on this, we will nevertheless, respect the decision. So as of now, the provisions of the Public Order Act remain enforced in this country.
“It must be understood this means accepting that our judiciary is independent and that we are totally committed to this independence.
“These are new times. It means we must practice what we preach and if the Supreme Court has interpreted our constitution, we must respect that decision even if we disagree with it.”
Tambadou said the government shared the same position with Darboe and co on the unconstitutionality of the Act before the Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court ruling can be appealed through a peer review panel but the Attorney General said they have not made any decision to that effect.
“We are not sure what we will do. We just received the judgment and we are trying to digest it,” he said.