When Shall  Jammeh & Co Stand Trial For Alleged Crimes ?

This question is best answered in the following legal interpretation at both international and domestic level, as far as commission of the alleged crimes under 22 year regime of Jammeh and his team are concerned, hence no room for speculation and gossiping.

The Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in the Hague, Article 5 therein outlined Crimes within the Jurisdiction of the said Court and it read as follows; Jurisdiction of the Court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. That the court has jurisdiction with respect to the following; The crime of genocide, Crimes against humanity, War crimes and the Crime of aggression

The focus here is on the Crimes against humanity as per Article 7 (1)(a-k) of the cited ICC Statute. (a) relates to the offence of murder, (f) on the offence of torture (i) on Enforced disappearance of Persons, (k) provided for other inhuman acts of similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health

Article 7(1)(a) of the cited ICC Statutes prohibited murder, which is also prohibited under section 18 of the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia, except on exercise of lawful order. Murder further provided under section 187 of Criminal Code, Laws of the Gambia and punishable with death under section 188 therein

Whereas Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided for right to life, liberty and security of persons. Article 5 therein prohibited torture and other forms of cruel degrading treatments.

                        Interpretation of Torture

Article 7(2) of ICC Statutes interpreted torture as intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering whether physical or mental, upon a person in custody or under the control of the accused. This must be balance against allegations of torture made by series of people over the years and such persons were not limited Imam Baba Leigh, who was recently quoted narrating what he described as one of the darkest times he went through in the hands of alleged torturers while in state custody under Jammeh’s regime

Musa Saidykhan, former Editor of the defunct Independent Newspaper also alleged serious torture met on him while in state custody, which inspired his legal suit at the Ecowas Community Court and judgment delivered in his favour, but Jammeh and his team did not respect the said judgment, despite the Gambia being signatory and member of ECOWAS

Other torture allegations came from opposition United Democratic Party female supporters such as Fatoumata Jawara, now Member of National Assembly for Talinding, Ngois Njie among others arrested in connection with 14th April 2016, Electoral Reform protest they staged under the coordination of late Ebrima Solo Sanden, who was also allegedly tortured to death while in state custody

Torture is also condemned by other legal instruments such African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights Resolution for prohibition and prevention of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in Africa otherwise called ‘’The Robben Island Guidelines’’

Part 1(C)- of the guideline criminalize the offence of torture and it reads; States should ensure that acts which falls within the definition of torture based on Article 1 of UN Convention Against Torture, are offences within their national legal systems. This begs the question as to whether was criminalise in the Gambia under the 22 years of Jammeh regime as outlined in the cited legal instruments

Articles 6, 5-20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights otherwise called ‘The Banjul Charter’’ entered into forced on 21st October 1986, also gave detailed protected fundamental rights freedoms, including the right to life, liberty, personal security and human dignity free from the offence of torture and other inhuman, cruel and degrading treatments

Section 21 of 1997 Constitution of The Gambia, prohibits torture and other cruel inhuman, degrading treatment and punishments

                     Enforced disappearance

Still on Crimes Against Humanity in the Rome Statute Article 7(2)(i) on Enforced Disappearance of persons means, the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or where-about of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time

The case of Chief Ebrima Manneh, Journalist working for the Daily Observer Newspaper, Editor and State House Correspondent at the time went missing since his arrest and detention in 2006, from his work place at the said newspaper by state agents of the Jammeh regime and nothing is still heard about him or his where-about is yet to be established

The case of former Kiang East National Assembly Member Mahawa Cham and one Saul Ndow on allegation of their abduction from the sister republic of Senegal and alleged handed over to Jammeh regime security agents in 2013 and their where-about is also yet to be established

Abduction runs contrary to 1969 Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaty as it did not only constituted an offence under international law, but also greatly undermines the state sovereignty and territorial independence of the victim states.

Nothing prevent states from entering into treaty on such matters as return of fugitives of law among others considered necessary for the interest and welfare of the state parties to such treaties on various subject matters, in line with Article 38 of Statutes of International Court of Justice (ICJ), which provided for sources of international law, including treaty as one of the most important sources therein

Section 19 of 1997 Constitution provided for right personal security and liberty that, no one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, deprived of his/her liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as established by law. Subsection three therein stated that, any person arrested or detained (a) for the purpose of bringing him/her before the court in execution of the order of court or  (b) upon reasonable suspicion of his/her having committed or being about to commit a criminal offence under the laws of the Gambia and who is not released, shall be brought without undue delay before a court and in any event, within seventy two hours. Subsection 6 therein reads; any person who is unlawfully arrested or detained by any other person shall be entiled to compensation from that other person or from any other person or authority on whose behalf that other person was acting.

The above interpretations must be contrasted with allegations of arrested and prolonged detentions without trial, that often led to allegations of disappearances of such persons without trace to date as illustrated in the cited names yet to be accounted for by the Jammeh regime

Other victims of alleged disappearance without trace were not limited to the following; Momodou Lamin Kanyi alias Kangiba Kanyi is another person who went missing for decades now after been allegedly arrested from his house by state agents under Jammeh regime and nothing is heard about him to date. Haruna Jammeh, Masireh Jammeh, Jasaja Kujabi, among others are all alleged to have been arrested, detained and yet to be accounted for by the Jammeh regime thus the question mark as outlined

However, Deyda Hydara, Proprietor and managing editor of the Point Newspaper, was allegedly gunned down to death while driving home from celebrating the said medium’s anniversary. Circumstances of dead is yet to be established, despite allegations of state security agents involvement, but nothing comes out, hence the global condemnation of the action exhibited by Jammeh regime.

                    Presumption Of Innocence

However, Jammeh and his co has what the legal pundits called ‘’Right to presumption of innocence until the contrary is proved’’ as contained in Article 11 of the International Bill of Rights otherwise called Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations resolution on 10th December 1048

This Article 11 (1) reads; Anyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he/ she has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) said no  one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or imission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed

Article 10 of the cited UN Human Rights Declaration provided for fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal for accused persons

Article 26 of the Banjul Charter also called “African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights guarantee the independence of courts and improvement of appropriate national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the cited charter. Also detailed in the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights Principles and guidelines on the right to fair trial and legal assistance in Africa

Section 24 of 1997 Constitution (1)(a-b),(2-3)(a-e), also made similar right of innocence and presumption for those accused of committing criminal offence. Subsection one therein reads; Any court or other adjudicating authority established by law for determination of any criminal trial or matter or for the determination of the existence or extence of any civil right or obligation, shall be independent and impartial

Section 18(1-5) of Evidence Act, 1994, Laws of the Gambia further provided the right of innocent and presumption until the contrary is proven

Article 66(1-3) of The Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) also provided for such presumption and it reads as follows; Everyone shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty before the court in accordance with the applicable law and that, the onus is on the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused

Article 67(1)(a-i) of the said Rome Statute provided for the rights of the accused person. It reads as follows; In determination of any charge, the accused shall be entitled to public hearing, having regards to provisions of this statute to a fair hearing conducted impartially in line with the cited paragraphs

                          Evidence For Trial

Its obvious for any criminal or civil proceeding to have enough evidence for sustenance of the case before the court and this is captured in various legal instruments including the Rome Statute in Article 69(1-8). It reads; Before testifying, each witness shall in accordance with the rules of procedure and evidence, give an undertaking as to the truthfulness of the evidence to be given by that witness

Article 69 (3) outlined submission of evidence relevant to the case, whereas (4) gave relevance and admissibility of evidence inter alia the probative value of the evidence and any prejudice that such evidence may cause to a fair trial or to a fair evaluation of a testimony of the witness in accordance with Rules of Procedure and Evidence

Similar provisions were made in section 3(1-2) of Evidence Act, Laws of the Gambia on relevant facts in the case that are admissible and not admissible and such evidence will greatly depend on available cases of alleged murder, disappearance without trace, torture among others made various persons, their families, friends or associates over the course of 22 years under Jammeh and his team under review

                   Surrender Of Accused Persons

Article 89 (1-3)(a-e)(4) of The Rome Statute outlined procedures for surrender of accused persons to stand trial before the said court. Article 89 (1) therein reads; The Court may transmit a request for the arrest and surrender of a person together with the material supporting the request as outlined in Article 91 of the statute to any state on the territory of which that person may be found and shall request the cooperation of that state in the arrest and surrender of such a person

Article 27(1-2) of the statute provided for Irrelevance of Official Capacity, that is it did not recognize official capacity either being a head of state or diplomat as well as government officials. These are not a bar to the jurisdiction of the court to those wanted for such crimes as outlined in the jurisdiction of the court on criminal offence therein

       Should complementary Role Of ICC Be Invoked?

There existed in the world of International Criminal Law, what we called ‘Complementary jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is inspired by the need to end impunity, especially where national or domestic courts lacks the capacity or the will to prosecute such crimes listed under the jurisdiction of the cited court

This dictates among others that, the ICC would be competent to invest and try such cases, unless there is another state that claim jurisdiction over the case. This theory holds that, states continue to play important role and ICC would only come in when the state failed or find it impossible to assume that role or show disinterest or bad faith. It operates on the bases of where there is no prospect of international criminals being duly tried in national or domestic courts

By Sanna Jawara, Chief Executive Officer-The Advocate

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