By Lamin Njie

The Ministry of Justice on Wednesday said that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is vested exclusively in the Attorney General which he executes mainly through the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Police.

President Adama Barrow on Tuesday ordered for the immediate withdrawal of murder charges against five police officers who were incriminated in the death of three people in Faraba Banta.

The decision followed an appeal from the community of Faraba for the discontinuance of the prosecution of the officers of the Police Intervention Unit as well as the civilians standing trial for their role(s) in the unfortunate Faraba Banta incident in June 2018, a statement from the Office of the President said.

The move quickly prompted furore in which a number of Gambians have slammed the president and have called for the resignation of the Minister of Justice Abubacarr Tambadou.

The Justice Ministry in a statement on Wednesday said it considered the presidency press release “as an unfortunate choice of words.”

The statement said: “The Office of the Attorney General notes the concerns expressed over the recent press release from the Office of the President about the discontinuation of the prosecution of the Faraba Banta PIU 5 and others, and wishes to inform the general public that the said press release from the Office of the President should only be regarded as conveying the Presidency’s support to a request by the affected families in Faraba Banta to discontinue the criminal cases resulting from the Faraba Banta Commission of Inquiry. The said request by the affected families, which is not unusual in this jurisdiction, was properly addressed to the Attorney General and was made through the Alkalo of the Village.

“The request is still under consideration by the Attorney General, and the Office of the President was only consulted for its views on the request in light of the fact that the Faraba Banta incident on 18 June 2018 was of such national tragedy and importance that it warranted the establishment by His Excellency, the President, of a Commission of Inquiry under Section 200 of the 1997 Constitution.

“In this regard, the Office of the Attorney General affirms that the Office of the President did not, and has never attempted to, interfere with the exercise of this discretion, and therefore considers the recent press release from the Office of the President as an unfortunate choice of words.

“The Office of the Attorney General reassures the general public that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is vested exclusively in the Attorney General which he executes mainly through the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Police. This discretion is exercised with due consideration to several factors including the public interest, and the wishes of the victims’ families.”