The Independent (Banjul)

5 August 2002

Gambia: 'Chief Justice Rejected Hassan Jallow's Sacking' Lawyers Petition Jammeh

Banjul — Leaks from the Gambian judiciary indicate that the Chief Justice Mohammed Arif had declined to hand over to Justice Hassan Jallow the letter ordering his removal as Supreme Court Judge.

According to reliable judicial sources, Chief Justice Arif originally from Pakistan was given the letter to deliver to Justice Jallow, but he refused to hand it over to him because as Chief Justice he thought the action was not in accordance with constitutionally laid down procedures for the removal of a high profile judicial officer. Sources said Justice Arif later made his opinion known to the authorities by way of a letter, outlining that certain constitutional guidelines must have been followed relating to the removal of a Supreme Court judge. He was quoted as making it clear to the authorities that he was not going to be part of a move, which is constitutionally inappropriate.

According to sources it was then that Raymond Sock the Solicitor General wrote the letter that consequently saw Hassan Jallow packing out of the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile Gambian lawyers who protested what they called his unconstitutional sacking, by boycotting the courts for three working days last week have petitioned President Jammeh to state their unequivocal position.

The petition decried the 'illegal' removal of the judge, which the lawyers believe suggests interference in the workings of the judiciary and negates a cardinal principle of democracy.

Since the boycott began on Monday 29th July all court proceeding throughout the country have been brought to a halt. Lawyers said they would not reveal whether they would continue with their boycott when they come back from their vacations in October. The boycott has left litigants and court staff bemused, since the lawyers' action has brought the Gambian judiciary grinding to a halt. The situation especially for litigants is serious since the lawyers have not given notice over when their protest action would end.

Lawyers converged at the High Court no 1 on Wednesday 31st July to adopt a petition that they were sending to the head of state Yahya Jammeh.

The meeting, which lasted for several hours, finally adopted a petition whose general content was not released to the media. But court sources say it will reflect the strong position of the country's body of lawyers. The petition was presented to the bar by a selected draft committee.

Briefing the press immediately after the end of the meeting, the secretary of the Bar Association Borry Touray said that although the boycott ended on Wednesday, the Bar was continuing with their protest to elicit explanation for Justice Hassan Jallow's removal.

Borry Touray added that the Bar would monitor the situation in the wake of the petition to the president and will accordingly.

Asked about the impact of the boycott so far Touray said that the whole judicial machine was put at a standstill. He reiterated that they were taking action to ensure that the independence of the judiciary 'is not tampered with'.

Mr. Touray however, declined to disclose the contents of the petition but promised that it would be made available to the press in due course.

Meanwhile, the Bar Association finally elected a new executive following previous futile efforts to do so. Sam George heads the new association as president. The other executive members are Omar Njie Vice-President, Borry Touray Secretary, Richel Mendy Assistant Secretary, Hawa Sisay-Sabally Auditor, Ann Rivington treasurer, and Almamy Taal social secretary. The elections were conducted coincidentally with the sacking of Justice Hassan Jallow. It has vowed to protect the independence of the Judiciary. According to the former president Bola Carrol, what the Bar executive needs is unity.

'They should be more united now. But I am convinced that what unites them is by far greater than anything that seeks to divide them. I wish them all the best while I give them my fullest moral support', he said.

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