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Judicial Legacy in the Gambia

On Thursday, June 25th 2020, the Government of The Gambia announced the resignation of the Justice Minister, Honorable Abubacarr Tambadou. According to the Voice of America, the small West African State said that Tambadou will step down as Minister and Attorney General for an unspecified job at the United Nations. (https://www.chronicle.gm/dawda-jallow-is-new-minister-of-justice-as-tambadou-takes-up-un-job/) Appointed Justice Minister in 2017, Tambadou was instrumental in setting up The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission , designed to investigate abuses committed under the country’s former dictator, Yahya Jammeh. In January of this year, amid calls from Jammeh’s supporters for his return, Tambadou said that the ex-dictator would be arrested and held to account if he returned from exile. (https://www.chronicle.gm/hell-surely-have-his-day-in-court-outgoing-ag-says-of-jammeh/) The lawyer turned politician also won international renown in 2019 for filing a case at the International Court of Justice accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against the Rohingya minority (https://www.chronicle.gm/misplaced-priorities-why-is-the-gambia-suing-myanmar/). President Barrow’s office released a statement praising Tambadou’s “patriotic and selfless service” as Justice Minister, and for helping restore The Gambia’s international image. Reed Brody, a human rights lawyer for Amnesty International, similarly praised the 47-year old’s record. “We didn’t always agree with Tambadou, but he always listened to human rights advocates and especially to Yahya Jammeh’s victims”, Brody said. Dawda Jallow, a barrister,  has been named the new Justice Minister and Attorney General.

       New Attorney General and Minister for Justice Dawda Jallow takes oath

Who is the former Minister of Justice and what has he contributed during his career. According to Wikipedia,  “Abubacarr Marie ‘Ba’ Tambadou (born December 1972) is a Gambian politician and lawyer who has served as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the President Adama Barrow’s cabinet since 7 February 2017. He previously worked as a lawyer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, serving as Special Assistant to the Prosecutor from 2012 to 2016…He was raised in Banjul and attended Saint Augustine’s High School from 1987 to 1992…From 1994 to 1997, he studied an LLB in law at the University of Warwick, in the United Kingdom, and in 1999 was called to the bar as a barrister at law at Lincoln’s Inn. From 2001 to 2002, he completed an LLM in International Human Rights Law at SOAS University of London…Tambadou first worked as a Public Prosecutor at the Gambian Ministry of Justice from 1997 to 1999, ensuring national prosecution of local crimes. He then worked as State Counsel from 1999 to 2000, with supervisory responsibilities over Public Prosecutors. He then went into Private Legal Practice, working at Sheriff M. Tambadou Law Chambers in Banjul from 2000 to 2003, with a particular focus on Human Rights Law. In 2003, he left the Gambia to work at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, as an Associate Legal Officer, a position he held from 2003 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008, he worked as a Trial Attorney, where he was responsible for prosecuting violations of human rights law in Rwanda…In 2008, he became an Appeals Counsel and handled a number of cases on appeal…For a time, he acted as Officer in Charge in the absence of the Senior Appeals Counsel. In 2012, he became Special Assistant to the Prosecutor, a role that included drafting papers and policy, leading briefings, and acting as Chief of Staff for the Prosecutor’s immediate office…Tambadou left the Court in 2016 after it closed.”

      Aboucarr M. Tambadou

The 3rd Republic of The Gambia has been doing quite some work in the Judicial Sector for its citizens. According to nyulawglobal.org, “The Gambia legal system, like most of West African countries, is a tripartite system consisting of the English common law of equity and statute law, customary law which is applied by Tribunals and Sharia law administered by a Cadi Court System. Customary law and Sharia law apply to indigenous Gambians and/or Muslims. The Gambia accepts, with reservations, the International Criminal Court of Justice’s compulsory jurisdiction and includes subsidiary legislative instruments enacted locally…The courts in The Gambia are divided into two categories, namely Superior Courts, which comprises the Supreme Court  which is the highest Court of Law in The Gambia and the Gambia Court of Appeal…”. The Constitutional Review Commission recently (CRC) (https://www.chronicle.gm/clarifications-concerning-certain-provisions-of-the-crc-draft-constitution/) recently embarked on a nationwide consultancy to ascertain the needs of the citizens and submitted a recommendation of amendments for the Gambian Constitution to His Excellency Adama Barrow. The Janneh Commission was also established to investigate and report the Human Rights abuses that took place under the former dictator’s regime. Last but not least, the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is still ongoing in its mission. They are seeking to hear from all victims and key players from the Jammeh regime to ensure that social stability can be attained and maintained in the 3rd Republic of The Gambia.

The Legislative and Judiciary work hand in hand in a Democracy to harvest political and socio-economic balances for society at large. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, a group of activist (https://www.chronicle.gm/the-gambia-government-bans-operation-3-years-jotna-with-immediate-effect/), had decided to mobilize around the issue concerning the five year tenure of office that the Head of the Coalition has decided to opt for. They argued, demonstrated and rioted in the streets of Banjul to express their disappointment regarding the fact that the Coalition had not respected the three year transitional ruling period that they had promised when the citizens and the international community helped them regain control of the Nation that had been rule by a dictatorship for over twenty two years. What will happen to such movements under the new Minister of Justice’s appointment?

Furthermore, many victims and families of individuals who were captured illegally, made to disappear to date and tortured by the former rulers of the Nation are impatiently waiting for justice to be served. Some perpetrators, as we have seen, have fled the country and vanished under the radar. What kind of collaboration can one foresee between the Gambian Judiciary, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Interpol to answer to the Constitutional Rights of these citizens? (https://www.chronicle.gm/reed-brody-on-why-it-will-be-harder-for-equatorial-guinea-to-not-hand-over-jammeh-when-the-time-comes/)The Ministry of Justice of The Gambia bids farewell to Honorable Tambadou whom has contributed his fair share to the Nation building process. The bayonet has been passed on and a victory is sought as we race towards a more equal and just society in the 3rd Republic of the Gambia: Freedom and Justice for all on “The Smiling Coast”.

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