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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Why did the president pardon murderers during their appeal process?

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Dear Editor,

It’s astonishing to read last week from The Standard newspaper that “The Supreme Court of The Gambia, presided over by Chief Justice Hassan Jallow, could not deliver judgment in the criminal appeal cases involving Baba Galleh Jallow and Samba Dora Bah due to the court learning, they had already got released on a presidential pardon”.

How on earth could violent robbers who murdered a respected family man get pardoned by the president without the knowledge of the Supreme Court or the Office of the Chief Justice?

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With this, the question begging answers is whether the president had followed due process. Have the judicial committee responsible for the prisoners’ pardon got compromised?

What’s the Justice Ministry’s role in this shambolic episode?

If all the relevant stakeholders got notified and the due process followed, how then was the Supreme Court not aware of the release of these killer robbers? If the oversight authority had made the Supreme Court aware, why would they call the case on the floor only to get a prison officer to inform the Chief Justice and his colleagues that the president pardoned the murderers?

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Why were these violent criminals pardoned and returned to the public without spending more time in correctional custody?

It is sad that the president could release killer who may present a significant risk to the public. This case should, therefore, shine an uncomfortable spotlight on the presidential pardon, especially on violent and murderous criminals.

What evidence got presented to the oversight committee of professionals to advise the president accordingly that the murderers deserved to be freed?

What risk management plans, close monitoring, or restriction are in place against these dangerous criminals?

Did the oversight committee or the president consider the feelings of the victim’s family? Victims and their families should be central consideration in any act of clemency accorded to prisoners, especially violent criminals.

Nonetheless, at the least, the president should have waited until the completion of the appeal process to consider commuting the sentence to life in prison. It seems from how the case got handled that these criminals got given preferential treatment due to their families or connections.

With the high rate of violent crimes, including homicide, should the state not get tough on crime than be seen to be soft on violent criminals?

The country should be worried. Too many violent offenders slip through the system of a service that is there to keep us safe, putting the public at risk.

How did the president consider these criminals for a pardon? Why are they given a special priority? Should the state not prioritise the many incarcerated for years without trial at the remand wing?

Should the president not consider the hundreds of women and youths serving sentences for lesser offences?  Those people deserve a second chance to rebuild their lives to become better citizens.

Should the state not speed up the backlog of pending cases of lesser offences to decongest the overcrowded prisons?

Also, the government should speed up the long overdue reform of the criminal justice system rather than leave the president to abuse his powers to release violent criminals with significant risk to the public.

It should be a severe concern to the National Assembly and the citizens that the executive can exercise power within the criminal justice system without the knowledge of the judicial authorities.

The president is wrong to unlock the cell doors of these rage-killers without proper risk management plans and professional advice.

Therefore, his decision to release these killers without the awareness of the chief justice and other professionals will have enormous consequences for the affected family and the country.

That is why we expect the National Assembly to inquire into the matter immediately. Also, they should consider looking into the incompetent pardoning system to identify failings and reform accordingly.

Sulayman Ben Suwareh


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