Chief Justice urged to resign after ‘waving and dancing’ for Jammeh

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Chief Justice has been urged to resign after he was allegedly seen waving and dancing in support of President Yahya Jammeh in contradiction of the laws governing his conduct.

Members of the Gambia Bar Association (GBA) said they have seen Chief Justice E. O. Fagbenle waving and dancing in front of the court premises in support of the incumbent presidential parade. 

It was the day Jammeh was going for nomination at the Independent Electoral Commission as the presidential election was then approaching.

In a letter demanding the resignation of the Chief Justice, the GBA said during the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections, the head of Gambia’s judiciary was engaged in activities which “compromised the independence of the Judiciary”. 

The letter was prepared after an emergency meeting of the Association on 12 December where it was resolved that the executive of the association should call on the Chief Justice to resign.

In the dispatch, the association said, in addition to waving and dancing, the Chief Justice was also seen during and prior the campaign period and prior to campaign period “openly attending political rallies of the APRC”.

Also, it said:  “Several members of the Bar saw you [the Chief Justice] wearing an APRC apparel on the court premises.

“You were distributing APRC apparel to the Court staff and making preparations for the victory celebration of the incumbent president.”

The Bar said these alleged conducts of the Chief Justice during the campaign period for the 2016 presidential elections is a violation of the law governing the conduct of judges and the judiciary in general.

Section 6(2) of the Judges Act states that a judge must strive to ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court, maintains and enhances confidence in his or her impartiality and that of the Judiciary.

Section 8(1) of the Act further indicates that a judge must not participate in partisan or political activity or association, and must cease absolutely and unequivocally a partisan political activity or association.

Section 8(2) added that a judge must avoid any public gathering if he or she considers that a mere attendance at the gathering might reasonably give rise to a perception of an ongoing political involvement, or put in question his or her impartiality on an issue that could come before the court.

The GBA told the Chief Justice, in the letter:  “The position of the Chief Justice is a constitutional position and as the head of the third arm of government, you are expected to maintain and uphold certain standards.

“You have, in our considered view, woefully failed to adhere to these standards.”

Section 120(3) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia provides that judges and other holders of judicial office shall be independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law. 

“This provision is sacrosanct and as head of the judiciary and the administrative head of all judicial officers, it was your duty to ensure and maintain this independence,” the association said.

Court interference

The Bar further accused the chief justice of interference with court cases.

“You have throughout your tenure as Chief Justice acted to perpetuate the will of the outgoing president,” the association said.

“You interfered with judicial officials who were presiding over cases and caused them to be dismissed when they made decisions which were deemed to be against the State’s interest.

“For these and other reasons, the Gambia Bar Association does not have faith in your ability to discharge the function of Chief Justice and we believe that you are not a fit and proper person to hold the Constitutional position of the Chief Justice of The Gambia. 

“We thus urge you to resign from this position with immediate effect failing which the GBA will pursue all avenues to have you dismissed for misconduct under the Provisions of Section 141 of the Constitution.

Source: Picture: Chief Justice E. O. Fagbenle