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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Gambia Bar debunks former CJ’s claims

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By Omar Bah The Gambia Bar Association (GBA) in a statement released yesterday, refuted former chief justice Emmanuel O. Fagbenle alleged claims his resignation letter that the relationship between the Bar and his office was without any friction. According to the GBA there indeed was a deep friction over many issues. Read the full statement below: We are pleased to note that despite your said letter, you have now resigned from the position of Chief Justice. It is however important to address some of the issues stated in your letter. Whilst the Bar has always sought to cooperate with you on issues relating to the administration of justice, we believe it is disingenuous of you to suggest as you have in your letter that the relationship between the Bar and your office was without friction.   It is untrue that the proposal that resolved the enrolment of the last Gambian Law Students came from the Bar. The GBA members on the General Legal Council have not attended a meeting of the Council since April 2016 and did not participate in the enrolment of the Students. Despite the steps taken by members of the Bar to facilitate the drafting of the Legal Practitioners Act, the membership of the Bar on the Council was reduced from 4 members to 1 member. This was done without any consultation with the GBA and we believe that it was specifically aimed at reducing the influence of the GBA in the Council. We maintain the assertion that you have interfered with decisions made by judicial officers. The fact that several Magistrates were arrested and dismissed because of decisions they made is public record and so there is no need to name the Judicial Officers affected. The fact that several Magistrates resigned during your tenure as Chief Justice supports the statements we have made. In your response to our said letter, Your Lordship made reference to the case of Ousainou Darboe & Ors v The State. The Defence Counsel in the case of Lamin Sonko & Ors v The State wrote to your Lordship on the 24th of May 2016. This letter was a follow up to an audience with Your Lordship on the 19th of May 2016. In this letter, Defence Counsel protested the transfer by Your Lordship of the case to the Mansakonko High Court on the following grounds: That the Mansakonko High Court was more than 200 kilometres from the scene of the alleged offence and more importantly outside the legal jurisdiction of the court that should ordinarily have been responsible for it, the Kanifing High Court. The offence having been allegedly committed in Kanifing ought to have been properly tried in Kanifing. The rationale behind the decentralization of the High Court was to have cases determined in the jurisdiction where the cause of action accrued. The transfer of a criminal trial for an offence which allegedly occurred in Kanifing to a court in Mansakonko therefore offended against the very principles which led to the establishment of the Court in Mansakonko. The Defence Counsel representing the defendants in the case of Lamin Sonko & Ors were the same Counsel representing the defendants in the case of Ousainou Darboe & Ors. The two different cases had been adjourned to the same date thus making it impossible for Counsel to attend to both cases. Your Lordship did not deign to respond to this letter by the Defence Counsel. Subsequently, it was made known in the Judgment delivered in the case of Ousainou Darboe & Ors v The State that your Lordship had instructed the trial Judge to expedite the hearing of that case. The above amply demonstrate the basis for the accusations made against you. It is also untrue that the then President of the GBA had any involvement with the drafting of the Amended Rules of the Supreme Court. In November 2016, the GBA wrote to you to protest the amendment of the Rules of the Supreme Court. Section 9 of the Supreme Court Act, provides that two Legal Practitioners nominated by the GBA should be members of the Rules Committee. No request for the nomination of any Legal Practitioners for the Rules Committee was ever received. This issue was raised with you in November 2016, prior to the 1st December, 2016 Presidential Elections. Again, you did not deign to respond to the letter sent to you by the GBA. To suggest therefore that this matter has only been raised for political reasons is again disingenuous on your part. Your denial of any involvement in party politics was surprising to us. This is particularly because you are aware that several lawyers, walked into your office and saw you wearing APRC apparel. Mrs Amie N.D. Bensouda, Ms Yassin Senghore and Ms Combeh Gaye are some of those who saw you and who are willing to depose to affidavits to attest to this fact. Your denial of this undeniable fact is testimony of your economy with the truth. Despite the friction which we have highlighted above, we still wish to thank you for the service that you rendered to our great nation and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours. We will allow this matter to rest here and leave this matter in the hands of the Almighty God who we believe is the ultimate judge and determiner of truth. Yours faithfully, Secretary General]]>

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