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Published On: Thu, Mar 21st, 2024

‘’I Cannot Give Any Advice Contrary to the Supreme Law of the Gambia’’ says Attorney General

Minister of Justice and the Attorney General Dawda Jallow appearing at the parliament yesterday was faced with tough questions from several lawmakers led by Bakau NAM Assan Touray. Touray wanted to know if the Minister of Justice had advised the president against pardoning such high crime convicts and he responded that he cannot give any advice contrary to the Supreme Law of the Gambia. 

President Barrow in January made a bold move by using his powers granting pardons to 37 prisoners in the country. Among them was former permanent secretary Dr. Bamba Banja, who was serving time for corruption, along with others convicted of serious crimes like rape and murder. This decision sparked both praise and controversy, raising important questions about justice and rehabilitation in the country.

Several complaints about the pardons have been raised by the human rights commission, rights activists and civil society organisations who label them as appalling.

Minister Jallow highlighted that the people of the Gambia through the constitution giving the president free powers to grant pardons irrespective of the crimes committed, adding that is the constitutional prerogative given to the president.

NAM for Bakau Assan Touray further asked the Minister of Justice to explain the rationale behind pardoning “hardened criminals convicted of rape and murder whilst there are inmates of lesser crimes still being held behind bars”.

Minister of Justice in his response said that the 1997 constitution gives the president the power to pardon prisoners regardless of the offense committed and he added that the over the years prisoners who committed capital offenses including rape were not considered pardon. Adding that in 2023 the Prerogative of Mercy Committee considered pardoning prisoners by imposing guidelines and conditions upon which prisoners will be pardoned, these he said including pardoning prisoners who have no pending appeal and served a minimum of ten years in prison and are of good behavior during the period. The committee also ensured that consent of victims or victims’ families were sought and obtained prior to release.

Minister Jallow was also asked about the composition of the committee and the criteria used in selecting convicts, and he said the convicts were recommended by a committee chaired by himself as the justice minister, representatives of the Supreme Islamic Council, Christian Council and the Department of Social Welfare,

National Assembly Member for Upper Fulladu Bakary Kora asked the minister to state if he thought it would be ideal for the government to inform the public about its intent to consider granting pardon to prisoners including those jailed for capital offenses before they are released, to which Minister Jallow replied: Honourable Speaker, he is asking about my opinion, if I should answer this question, i will be expressing an opinion.”  The speaker ruled in his favor and the question was not addressed.

Banjul North NAM asked the Minister about the president’s decision to lift the ban from holding public office for Momodou Sabally, Njogu Bah, Amadou Colley, Sirra Wally-Ndow and others, Jallow responded.

Mr Jallow responded that the decision of the president to lift the ban on public officials who were banned pursuant to the Janneh Commission Report was done pursuant to the amendment of the Commission of Inquiry Act passed by this National Assembly in December [2023], and he added that he cannot question the prerogative of the president to grant pardon and he said due processes were followed for him to grant the said pardons.

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