By Basidia M Drammeh
Murder trials before the High Court take long and difficult time. From filing of the bill of indictment to arraignment and disposal of preliminary objections and replies to admissibility of evidence and finally to the long adjournments for judgements.
Also the number and availability of witnesses can also prolong trials in the Gambia. Yankuba had indeed chosen a long way to justice.
At this stage, Yankuba is innocent until proven guilty and it’s the duty of the state to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt before he will be called upon to enter his defence.
Courts do not sit daily on each case and long adjournments are a sorry hallmarks of trials in the Gambia, although the Criminal Procedure Code allows maximum of 15 days between adlournments in criminal trials. I foresee a long trial.
What I think his lawyers will do is to raise preliminary objection in the form of pleading his constitutional immunity pursuant to Paragraph 13 of Second Schedule of the Constitution.
By doing that, the court MAY stay its proceedings and refer the matter to the Supreme Court pursuant to s. 127(1)(a) and (2).
There is no time limit for the Supreme Court to hear and determine such referrals, but I would assume that the SC will uphold the direction in s.124 by dealing with it expeditiously.
But again, the raising of such a defence and application for it to be referred to the SC by the Accused person will meet a strong opposition from the state thereby causing some lapse of time.
While all these legal wheeling and movements are ongoing, the life of Yankuba will be reduced to detention in remand, moving to and from court and sitting calmly and quietly in the dock.
Could Yankuba have chosen a different path to justice? I will answer in the affirmative!
If I were Yankuba, I would have responded to the Subpoena as he did and raised immunity to the hearing of everyone and on camera before being sworn in.
l would have requested protection from the Commission from arrest immediately after my testimony.
I would have taken the oath and would have told Chairman that I wanted protection under Paragraph 13 for matters between 1994 to 1996.
If the Commission does not want to address that headlong, I will insist that my request for immunity be recorded. Thereafter, I will answer the questions to the best of my recollections.
If I were Yankuba, I will file a suit before the Supreme Court immediately after my testimony to request the invocation of its powers to enforce Paragraph 13 of the Constitution and make an injunction against anyone or constituted body from disturbing my constitutional immunity.
If he succeeds at the SC, both the testimony at TRRC and matters between 1994 to 1996 will become inconsequential and of no effect. But If he fails, the TRRC will be in an appropriate and legal position to make its recommendations against him.
Since Yankuba chose differently, he will be in remand for months and there will be little or no public sympathy due to his arrogant behavior before the TRRC and the alleged gruesome murder of Koro Ceesay.
It appears the musical jinx was played for Yanks at the TRRC. The few supporters and their irritant behaviors in public will make majority of Gambians more angry with Yanks because the crimes of AFPRC was not against the direct victims alone but against the nation.