The TRRC Lead Counsel Essa Faal today held a press conference, in which he commented on the operational mandate of the commission among others. Faal had raised so many issues of public concern during his meeting with the media.
Faal’s assertion that victims of Jammeh’s rule, should be treated differently when it comes to leading them in evidence—opposed to what he called witnesses, who have been adversely mentioned before the commission.
It is our understanding that Faal believes that victims of the past administration should be accorded a special treatment, when it comes to trying to establish the truth, unlike folks who have been perceived as perpetrators.
There is a saying that “JUSTICE IS BLIND.” That being said, it is our firm belief that in the eyes of the law, we are all equal—irrespective of one’s position, status, background or given condition.
It is disturbing to hear the Lead Counsel to suggest that the way that he would question victims, would be different from that of folks, who had been adversely mentioned during the TRRC proceedings. In our view, Faal’s position on the said matter, is a clear case of legal bias and prejudice.
Faal is on record for having said that the TRRC is not a court of law. Hence, he said, there is no need for witnesses, or alleged perpetrators to be availed with legal representation.
Since Lead Counsel Faal, has decided to take a position on the way and manner he would ask question to a given victim, witness, or alleged perpetrator, it is crucially imperative to raise the following questions:
- How does Lead Counsel Faal determines the veracity of one’s claim of being a victim of Yahya Jammeh’s regime? This not to doubt or question the reliability of any given victim, but in our view, it is dangerous for the Lead Counsel to conclude that anyone claiming to be a victim, qualifies to be treated as a victim.
- Given the cumbersome nature of Jammeh’s decade divide and control rule style, there were instances in which you will see, once a victim, had become a perpetrator at some point.
- Is Faal in the position to differentiate the two without injecting his emotion or empathy towards a given case?
- Is it legally ethical or appropriate for Faal to litigate the fate of the victims and perpetrators without availing them a fair hearing; without any prejudicial pronouncements on them? Just asking folks?
Faal, as a Lead Counsel, has all rights to question witnesses, but he should avoid making public statements to the media, as to how witnesses should be treated, or who is lying to the commission. If he thinks that a given witness has lied to the commission, he should forward the matter to the Attorney General for prosecution.
Keep in mind that some of the people Faal had accused of lying to the commission haven’t been convicted yet by a court of law. Any good lawyer can use his pronouncements to argue in court that his client has been adversely prejudiced by the Lead Counsel’s comments. The cardinal rule of innocence before guilty should be observed.
In a layman language, it is dangerous for Faal to prejudge witnesses or accused persons. The courts are mandated by law to pronounce one’s guilt of a given crime or innocence.
Faal also talked about institutional hearing during his address to the press. He also seems to suggest that folks giving account about the activities of the former administration should be treated differently. Faal seems to be more concerned about the credibility of folks, who have been adversely mentioned and not other witnesses.
One thing is certain though, the TRRC Act, did not give the Lead Counsel the right to meddle into some of the things he mentioned during his press briefings. The TRRC Act clearly states that all people appearing before the commission should be treated equally.
The 1997 Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The TRRC operates within the dictates of the Constitution. The Constitution prohibits discrimination in any form or judicial biased.
Lead Counsel Faal actions should be guided by the dictates of the Constitution and not otherwise.
Mr. Faal also defended his recent move to donate a piece of land to Mafugi Sonko, one of the witnesses, who had testified before the TRRC. He says he doesn’t see anything wrong with his move. He said he never donated the land to Mafugi, under his capacity as the TRRC Lead Counsel. Faal also said the donation was not done on behalf of the TRRC. He even went as far as calling himself as a charitable private citizen. He called on others to emulate him.
Folks, Faal made the donation at the premises of the TRRC. Secondly, it is ethically wrong for him to donate a piece of land to Mafugi, given the task bestowed on him to help guide witnesses and the TRRC in establishing the truth.
Faal’s emotions and ego are taking a toll on him. He stands to be accused of comprising his independence as a Lead Counsel.
Under normal circumstances, The Gambia Legal Council, ought to have open an alleged ethical violation against one of their members Essa Faal. Faal’s conduct, undermines everything that the TRRC had stood for. We rest our case.