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Gov’t vows to respect judicial independence

Dec 21, 2010, 11:54 AM | Article By: Malamin Conteh

The Government of the Gambia through the Vice President has expressed its resolve to continue to always respect the independence and impartiality of the judiciary at all times, and called on the bench and bar to be wary of the expectations of the Gambian people.

Vice President Njie-Saidy, on behalf of President Yahya Jammeh, Sunday officially opened the 2010/2011 legal year, and delivered the speech in which President Jammeh also called on the bench and bar to be guided by the adage: “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

According to President Jammeh, a vibrant, efficient and effective judicial system is, without doubt, an important and indispensable prerequisite for achieving accelerated growth and development.

“Not only is a functional legal and judicial system necessary for advancing social cohesion, it acts as a catalytic source for confidence building among local communities, individuals, as well as the international community of donors and investors in search of collaborative business ventures in the Gambia,” he stated.

The President described the Legal Year Day as an important national calendar event in the Gambia.

“This day gives us the opportunity in which we jointly reflect on the achievements of the legal sector in the past and previous years, and bring to the fore the challenges that stand in the way towards making the Gambia’s justice and justice delivery system one of the best, and possibly second to none, the world over,” he added.

The journey, he further noted, has not been easy, nor will it be that easy, especially given the limited financial resources; but with sustained determination, the vision of becoming the world’s best in legal and judicial administration is, without doubt, attainable.

The President went on to reveal plans to establish, by early 2011, a bar school to enable students graduating from the Law School of the University of the Gambia receive their training in law up to professional level, and on home soil.

Also speaking at the ceremony was the Chief Justice of the Gambia, Justice Emmanuel Agim, who underscored the importance of the ceremony, stating that it signifies government’s commitment to the rule of law, its faith in the legal system as an assurance of the rule of law, as well as its hope in the legal system, particularly the judiciary to protect our lives, rights and interests and provide a peaceful, happy and secure society.

“It also demonstrated our understanding that our plans and initiatives for the development, social, economic and political transformation of our society can only be effected by law, and our understanding that how law is administered by institutions of the administration of law like the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, the bar, the police and similar institutions directly affect the realization of our development and the transformation of our society,” Chief Justice Agim further stated.

He added that the speedy dispensation of justice and the widening of access for all have remained their cardinal principle.

The minister of Justice, Edward Gomez, in his statement, among other things, also underscored the importance of the Legal Year, noting that it is an important component of the criminal justice system in the Gambia.

“It is a requirement under section 24(3) of the constitution that a person charged with an offence, which carries a punishment of life imprisonment or death, shall be entitled to a legal aid at the expense of the State,” he said, adding that the right to legal aid in such cases is a fundamental right.

“It is also related to being presumed innocent until proven guilty, and the right to a fair and impartial trial, to name but a few,” he concluded.