Monday, July 22, 2024

‘We’re living up to expectations’: Full text of President Barrow’s legal year speech

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Your Excellency, the Vice President, My Lord, the Chief Justice,
Justices of the Superior Courts of The Gambia,
Honourable Cabinet Members
Members of The Gambia Bar Association,
Members and Staff of the Judiciary Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honour and a singular privilege to preside over the official opening of the 2019/2020 Legal Year. From the outset, let me re-affirm the premium my Government places on the establishment and strengthening of a credible justice system in The Gambia. Accordingly, the Opening of the Legal Year is always a significant moment, which we look forward to keenly.

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It is obvious that sound national justice system administration is vital for the stability and development of any nation. Therefore, it is important for all branches of Government and the general public to give the legal and judicial system the much needed support for it to function responsibly. In this regard, I will cite a few examples to indicate my Government’s commitment to maintaining an efficient, respectable and robust legal system.

From 2017 to date, important initiatives have been undertaken to attract and retain the finest indigenous legal minds for both the Judiciary and the State Law Office.
Incentive to our Judicial Officers and State Law Officers has been significantly increased, and there has not been any Executive interference in the Judiciary. The separation of the three organs of State and the independence of the Judiciary are principles which my Government will never compromise.

We know that Government commitment to good governance and the protection of human rights goes a long way in supporting the Judiciary and the legal profession. In truth, the values of good governance save valuable judicial time, as they enable the courts to focus on more pressing matters of development.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when Gambians voted for change in 2016, they chose democratic rule over dictatorship, the rule of law over misuse of power, and respect for human rights over disregard of freedoms and civil liberties.

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They voted for a Gambia free from unlawful arrests, the brutality of law enforcement agents, suppression of the press and detention without trial, among other forms of violations. As a Government, we are aware of these choices and our responsibility to promote and ensure the protection of these choices. The evidence is that we are living up to expectations.

In my address to this august gathering in 2019, I outlined some of the major legislative and institutional reforms embarked upon by my Government. A year on, we have progress registered thus far.

  1. The Constitutional Review Commission has shared the first draft of the proposed new Constitution after inclusive consultations with the citizenry both within and outside the country. We now look forward to a Constitution that reflects the real values and aspirations of all Gambians.

  2. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) held public hearings, which availed witnesses testify before the Commission. This represents a significant number of both victims and perpetrators.

In line with the victim centered approach of the TRRC, from the sale of the former President`s assets, the sum of Fifty Million Dalasis (D50 Million) has been allocated to the TRRC Victims Trust Fund to redress his numerous victims of human rights violations.

  1. The first ever National Human Rights Commission is now fully functional. It is expected that it will continue to be the bedrock for the protection of human rights in this country.

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  2. The Janneh Commission of Inquiry submitted its final report on the financial activities of former President Jammeh. Most of the recommendations in the report were accepted by my Government, and recovery efforts are being executed in the interest of the nation.

  3. Key legislative initiatives were launched in the past year, geared towards the creation of an open, democratic and rule-based society. Among them is the Anti-Corruption Bill, which will pave the way for the establishment of the first ever Anti-Corruption Commission in The Gambia.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 2019, The Gambia made the most significant mark in the world of international human rights promotion since the adoption of the African Charter on Human and People`s Rights in 1986. Having recognised our recent gains in defending human rights, in 2018, the OIC nominated The Gambia as Chair of its Inter-Ministerial Committee for accountability for the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Subsequently, with the support of the OIC, The Gambia Government instituted legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to stop all acts of genocide against the Rohingyas.

We are conscious of the burden of state-sponsored terror against innocent and unarmed civilians. We must use our moral voice to condemn oppression wherever it happens, so that others will not suffer illegally. We are currently pursuing this matter.

Ladies and gentlemen, in spite of the steady progress we have made as a nation in the past three years, more work needs to be done in the legal sector. I have observed, for example, the crime rate and the desire for violence among a section of the youth, especially crimes of sexual violence against women and girls. In addition, the backlog and slow handling of court cases. We need to step up on these areas to maintain public confidence in the Judiciary.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made to recruit the required number of judges for the High Court of The Gambia.

For this reason, I recently confirmed the appointment of two more Judges from the sister Republic of Ghana, and I hope more Gambians will take up the challenge of serving on the Bench to fill the gap.

Having said this, I pay tribute to all those in the criminal justice chain who have contributed in one way or another to the justice delivery system in the country. Keep up the good work.

In conclusion, I must reiterate, once again, my Government’s commitment to providing a sustained conducive environment for an efficient, transparent and fair legal system in The Gambia.

Confident that you will play your part very well, I now declare the legal year officially open. I wish you all a very happy, prosperous and peaceful legal year.

Thank you for your attention.

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