By Omar Bah
Lawyer and former high court judge, Almami Taal, has said the attorney general should not have suspended the sale of properties and assets belonging to former president Yahya Jammeh and others despite the appeal court’s 1st June ruling.
“I believe the Court of Appeal is really on all points very clear as to what a commission of inquiry can do and cannot do. But let us be also very clear – this is just one case – every other case will be subjected to the same scrutiny and I don’t think it is justifiable for the AG to suspend the sales or the liquidation of the assets that have been forfeited by the Janneh Commission,” Taal told The Standard yesterday.
The Ministry of Justice last Friday announced that the government has halted until further notice all sales of properties flowing from the Janneh Commission’s recommendations in deference to a ruling of the court of appeal until a final pronouncement is made on the matter.
“I don’t think anyone will doubt the recommendations and the very good work of the commission but we have a system of justice which has not gone through the same scrutiny that Yahya Jammeh and his close associates have gone through. We have these institutions of government that are still here and they have not gone through any scrutiny, whether it is the Gambia Armed Forces, Police Force, Central Bank or the judiciary itself. None of them has been scrutinised to see exactly how effective they were in delivering their services,” he added.
Taal argued: “Anybody who believes that the decision of the commission was adversely to your interest, it is for that person to go to court, but the jurisprudence about one case does not discredit the work of the commission”.
Taal who is now a kingpin in the UDP, said Jammeh has a lot to answer for.
“Hopefully, he will be brave enough to come to face justice here because he is a fugitive from justice. Every crime stays a crime forever until and unless the person either dies or faces justice. So if there are high crimes that have been committed, after you establish the facts, there is no reason why you should not go through the prosecution route unless, we don’t have faith in our administration of justice.”
Turning to the establishment of the commissions of inquiry, Taal contended that as a government in transition, it was not the best approach for the Barrow administration “to just get a commission of inquiry into the assets of the former president”.
“What would have been useful for us was to set up a prosecution process, whether it is a special process or a special court, to deal with the matter. People must not forget that when Jammeh came with all those commissions, they were ruling this country from 1994 to 1997 by decree and they made those decrees laws of The Gambia in the 1997 Constitution,” he added.
He continued: “So the transition period is a period for you to readjust and recalibrate your governance architecture and make sure that the crimes of the past don’t go unpunished. I think we duplicated without the added creativity that would have made sure that this situation would not reach the stage it has reached now.”