By Bruce Asemota
President Adama Barrow has urged the Judiciary to expedite hearing and determination of cases in the courts across the country.
The president made this call in a statement delivered on his behalf by Vice –President Mohammed BS Jallow during the opening of the 2024 Legal year ceremony yesterday.
The president revealed that his government had tabled several legislations in 2023 before the National Assembly and that many more including the Special Prosecutor bill is underway.
He expressed appreciation at the Ministry of Justice efforts in contributing to the trial in Germany human rights abuses case and maintained that the Gambia will continue to actively participate in the fight for the rights of the people of Rohingya.
He said the Gambia is actively participating in ensuring that there is a lasting peace in the Israel and Palestinian war.
The President revealed that the 2023 legal year witnessed major developments and pledged his government’s commitment to providing effective and quality assistance to the judiciary.
The Chief Justice, Hassan B. Jallow stated that the ceremony provides the Judiciary the opportunity to celebrate justice and the rule of law in our community, reflect on the challenges in its application and together chart a way forward to address those challenges.
Chief Justice Jallow noted that yesterday opening of the 2024 legal year kickstarts a number of other activities in the course of the week.
He thanked the legal year Committee, chaired by Justice Ebrima Jaiteh, whose membership comprises representatives from the Judiciary, Attorney General’s Chambers, the Bar, and the Gambia Law School for organizing the opening of the Legal Year 2024 and activities marking its celebration.
Chief Justice Jallow stated that the legal year 2023 was indeed a very busy one for the judiciary notably in the area of hearing and determination of cases.
He asserted that the 2023 legal year started with a carry-over of 5810 cases from 2022, whilst a further 5639 cases were filed across all courts bringing the total case load in 2023 to 11,449 cases.
He noted that in the course of 2023, a total of 5,273 cases were disposed of.
Chief Justice H.B.Jallow pointed out that the judiciary efforts to improve the case management system received a welcome boost from the USAID/ABA Project for promoting Rights and Justice (PRJ) with the submission of a project proposal for a digitized case management system which is currently under review.
He revealed that some twenty legal practitioners have already been trained in 2023 on ADR noting that the draft bill to establish the Gambia Judicial and Legal Training Institute has been validated and submitted to the Ministry of Justice for enactment by the National Assembly.
He said the District Tribunal training programme for its presidents, members and scribes which handles customary law matters and a significant number of local disputes which was launched last year has been successfully implemented in all regions of the country.
He further said the Judiciary Training Institute also provided some input into the judiciary capacity building programme through the organization of local training workshops on various subjects for various target groups within the Judiciary.
Chief Justice Hassan B.Jallow disclosed that the capacity of the Bench of Magistrates Court has also been strengthened with the recruitment by the Judicial Service Commission of five new Magistrates, who after induction training have now been deployed to various subordinate Courts.
He said a new Chief Magistrate in the person of Pa Modou Njie has taken up duties as well.
He further said that the capacity of the High Court Bench is also strengthened with recruitment of additional Judges: justice Ayoola and Justice Owolabi from Nigeria and Justice Kwabeng from Ghana.
Chief Justice Hassan B.Jallow revealed that he has issued a direction pursuant to section 133(3) and 143(1) of the Constitution establishing the Special Criminal Division of the High Court with effect from the 26th January, 2024 for the hearing and determination of criminal matters arising from the implementation of the recommendations of the TRRC.
Chief Justice Hassan B.Jallow however explained some challenges faced by the Judiciary like shortage of courtroom space, magistrates and Judges, lack of transportation for magistrates and judiciary support services, lack of official vehicles and unavailability of government loans to judicial officials for purchase of vehicles and the security and ethical challenge such magistrates and Cadis in the use of commercial vehicles.
The Minister of Justice Dauda Jallow haped on the achiement recorded by his ministry in the past year noting that Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) has been appointed.
Attorney General Dauda Jallow applauded the Judiciary in complementing the ministry efforts in the fight against crime.
He noted that the criminal division at the Attorney General’s Chambers has successfully prosecuted high profile cases.
Meanwhile, certificates were awarded to some retired deserving judicial personnel, amongst whom were retired Justice Gibou S. Janneh and Justice Raymond Sock.