By Tabora Bojang
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice yesterday tabled the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2019 before lawmakers at the National Assembly.
The bill, if approved, will ensure among others, the prosecution of offenders on criminal matters whether they are within or outside the country.
The bill provides for mutual assistance between Gambia and other countries in their quest to improve the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crime through cooperation and mutual assistance, Abubacarr Tambadou told lawmakers.
Tambadou said the bill covers assistance in relation to the taking of evidence, production of evidence, search or seizure, custody and immunities.
Asked if the bill would provide framework for the government to solicit international support to prosecute former president Yahya Jammeh in another country, he replied: “This is to enable us to fulfil our obligations in the broader regional fight against crimes and terrorism, but hypothetically, yes.”
He said it is not an extradition bill but a fulfilment of The Gambia’s obligation as a member of Ecowas and Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa.
Speaking on the general principles and merits of the bill, Member for Jarra East Sainey Touray said the bill would send a strong signal to criminals and fugitives that there is little room to escape the long arm of justice.
Touray added that it would also curb criminal activities around our porous borders.
Member for Banjul North Ousman Sillah said The Gambia could not remain behind in the maintenance of regional and international peace and stability, saying the fight against crimes especially if it has implications to the peace and stability of the country is a worthy cause.
According to Sillah, if the bill is passed, it will cover punishments on persons running from prosecution in and outside the country.
Member for Brikama North and Kantora Alhagie S Darboe and Bilay G Tunkara, respectively, gave thier blessings to the bill and said it is worth consideration and adoption.
“The coming of this bill would provide framework to end banditry in and outside the country. There would be no room to take advantage over the weak ones and escape without facing the law,” Tunkara said. It is expected to be signed into law by the President after the approval of the National Assembly.