Gambia: Remanded Prisoners protest against Security Officers in Court


Many prisoners yesterday (03. July 2017) protested against the security personnel at the Kanifing Magistrates Court.


By Yankuba Jallow

The churning up came about when one of the prisoners exclaimed ‘what injustice are we facing in detention’ and he was later joined by the others.

The police at the initial stage were forcing them to remain silent but the enraged prisoners did not pay heed. One of the policemen who was the most active in forcing them to remain silent wanted to slap one of the furious prisoners but he quickly withdrew.

The prisoners were chanting that they have been in the remand wing for more than a year without stepping their feet in any court of competent jurisdiction. The prisoners who are believed to be facing misdemeanour cases such as theft and slander among others sounded off that their rights have been infringed and that they are not been treated fairly.

This happened in the presence of some senior lawyers who also contributed to calm them and promised to look into their claims from the office of the Attorney General.

“I have never appeared in court even once for more than a year” said most of them.

“I am in detention for more than 9 months” said few of them.

“I have never set my feet in court for 6 months now” said 3 of them.

“There many people like us who have never stepped their feet in court,” they all said.

The Constitution provides for a fair hearing and speedy trial for all.

The revolt happened in the absence of the Principal Magistrate, Hilary Abeke, but when he came he addressed the security personnel present. He said there are some cases that are prolonged and not long ago he had dismissed a case that begun in the year 2013. He asserted that there are some cases that have not been proceeding for the past one year.

The Magistrate said in the interest of justice, he has been engaging the prosecution and the prison authorities to come early in the morning as early as 8 am to deal with such cases but yet when he comes, he finds no one in the court. He further stated that he has also told the prison authorities to release the prisoners at 8:30 am to come to court. He ordered the prosecutor to ensure that the accused persons are brought to court.

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Foroyaa Newspaper, 04.08.2017


About a dozen prisoners were protesting in court that they have been in the remand wing for more than a year without appearing in court. This would not have been possible if section 24 of the Constitution was adhered to which states in subsection (1) that

“Any court or other adjudicating authority established by law for the determination of any criminal trial or matter, or for the determination of the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation, shall be independent and impartial:  and

(a)   if any person is charged with a criminal offence, then, unless the charge is withdrawn; or

(b)   where proceedings are commenced for the determination or the existence  of any civil right or obligation,

the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable  time.”

In short apart from the trial being fair, it must be heard within a reasonable time. In fact this is more explicit for trial by a magistrate for which the Criminal Procedure Code specifically stipulates that a trial can be adjourned for not more than seven days if the accused is remanded in custody. These remanded prisoners are appearing before a magistrate and should not have been remanded for more than seven days.

When a detainee is left to languish in remand through negligence or otherwise it may amount to punishing a person who is presumed innocent until he/she is proven guilty or pleads guilty as pronounced in section 24 (3)(a) of the Constitution: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until he or she is proved, or has pleaded, guilty.”

Let us hope in the interest of justice the members of the bar who promised to liaise with the Attorney General’s Chambers will keep their promise and facilitate a speedy dispensation of justice. Let us also hope that the police prosecution and the prison authorities will live up to expectation and ensure that the remanded prisoners are in court on time. They are crying for justice and justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.