Dec 10, 2015, 10:30 AM
The Attorney General and Minister of
Justice has said the acts of the former government has enmeshed The Gambia in a
legal liability bill in excess of D2 billion.
Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambedou made this disclosure yesterday at a press conference held at the Justice ministry in Banjul.
The new government has inherited several international cases filed against The Gambia during the former regime, he revealed.
“You may or may not be aware, but this government has inherited some international cases which were filed against The Gambia as a result of the purported acts of the former government.
“Consequently, The Gambia now faces a potential legal liability bill in excess of two billion dalasis,” Minister Tambedou told journalists.
He added that the Ministry of Justice is currently exploring various options for a “quick resolution of these cases”, so that the nation can resolve them and focus on the important task of rebuilding and strengthening the country’s justice system.
He said The Ministry of Justice had also been in contact with some international organizations, including Article 19, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the International Bar Association to seek support for the justice sector reforms of the new government.
“In consultation with the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, we will be reviewing a draft Memorandum of Understanding on a tripartite partnership between the Ministry of Justice, the Gambia Press Union and Article 19 in respect of reform of the media laws in the country.”
He disclosed that the Ministry of Justice was also able to secure assistance from the International Senior Lawyers Project in specialised areas of legal practice such as preparing, drafting and reviewing international commercial agreements, to cover the capacity deficit in the Ministry in the short term.
“A senior lawyer will be seconded from this organization to the Ministry very soon at no cost to government,” he said, adding that the ministry is on the verge of creating the post of Special Advisor to the Attorney General, whose principal responsibility will be to provide policy advice on the justice sector reforms envisaged by the ministry.
“The post will be funded by the British Government and applications will soon be invited from suitably qualified Gambians to fill the post,” he said.
Capacity building at Ministry
Hon. Tambedou emphasised the need for capacity building at the Justice ministry, saying they are also exploring other ways of shoring up capacity at the ministry through donor funding of local support initiatives.
“We are looking at the possibility of hiring members of the private bar on contract as a stop gap measure, while the capacity of existing resources within the Ministry is being strengthened in key areas.”
In terms of ongoing activities at the Ministry, he said: “I wish to highlight some of the most urgent ones: The Criminal Case and Detention Review Panel has already started its work. This panel was established by the Ministry of Justice in consultation with the Ministry of the Interior to review and advise the Attorney General regarding the ongoing criminal cases against serving or former public officers, cases linked to a political activity, and the cases of all persons awaiting trial in remand.
“The membership of the panel consists of lawyers from the Ministry of Justice, staff members from the Ministry of the Interior, a representative from the Gambia Police Force and the Gambia Prison Service. I have started receiving their recommendations on a rolling basis, and I will act based on this.”
Establishment of a commission of inquiry into Jammeh’s financial activities
The minister has also disclosed that his ministry would soon establish a commission of enquiry to look into financial and business-related activities of former President Jammeh.
“In consultation with His Excellency the President and my cabinet colleagues, the Ministry is in the process of finalising the draft terms of reference for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to look into the financial and business-related activities of the former president. The commission is expected to start its work soonest,” he said.
Suspension of contractual agreements
Meanwhile, Minister Tambedou also indicated that “the Ministry of Justice will soon be writing to all government departments, agencies and organs” advising them “to suspend all bilateral contractual engagements with certain identified companies”, pending a review of the contractual arrangements with them.