Taal confirmed that he has been an active member of the Bar from 2002 to date. He explained that upon his return to Gambia from the UK, he realised that the practice of law in the country was very challenging and hard for lawyers to do their job freely and independently. He said he was once shocked when he realised that the court clerk was an NIA agent.
Witness Taal continued that during his practice as a private lawyer, many obstacles occurred and Mariama Jack Denton was once detained at Mile 2 Prison. He said the bar executive discussed legal actions to get her released, but Denton didn’t want them to take legal steps because she believed it may worsen the situation.
“As a young lawyer, I was confused because Denton wasn’t charged with any offence. She ends up being in detention at the Mile 2 Prison for 111 days. It was later when the female lawyers released an order to secure her release unconditionally. I think she was detained due to the manner in which she was perceived as a supporter of the UDP.”
On another occasion, Lawyer Taal explained that Lawyer Ousainou Darboe was also arrested and charged with murder for the killing of one APRC militant who died during a fracas between UDP and APRC militants.
He testified that Mr. Bory Ceesay who gave bail to Lawyer Darboe was dismissed, while adding that Mr. Antuman Gaye was also arrested and remanded at Mile 2 in January 2006.
“The bar filed an application for bail, in which we got his freedom. In 2006 March again, he was picked up by armed men at the court without order. The arrest was on the instruction of ex-president Jammeh. Mr. Gaye was detained for 7 days in connection with Ndure Cham’s abortive coup. Subsequently, we agreed to boycott the court sittings and for Justice Brobbey to leave his position as chief justice. Mr. Gaye was never charged after his arrest and detention.”
Further testifying, he said Justice Paul once made a statement threatening to lock the lawyers. He said that was the time the majority of the lawyers stopped attending his courts.
“We knew that we were on target, they wanted to divide us and we as well knew that the executive would attack us. There were minorities among us who had an interest for the government.”
He told the commission that many iconic African leaders formed a delegation to meet Jammeh but he directed them to the vice president and the attorney general. He added that Jammeh presented himself as Africanist and believed that human rights are for the whites while adding that he (Jammeh) used religion and culture to manipulate, rule and attack Gambians.
Witness Taal stated that the directive of the President is not legally above court orders.Instead, the executive directive of Jammeh used to supersede the court orders and the Constitution was mostly disregarded.
On several illegalities on the manner lawyers were arrested, Witness Taal said the bar also reacted to the illegal arrest of Justice Moses Richard.