Gambia: 'Gov't Policy of Taking Justice to the Doorstep of Every Gambian Has Been Achieved'

The vice president and minister of Women's Affairs has said that government's policy of taking justice to the doorstep of every Gambian has been achieved. Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy further stated that the creation of an appellate court has also contributed tremendously to the administration of justice in accordance with Sharia'h and to jurisprudence of the Cadi Court system.

She was was speaking Thursday on behalf of President Jammeh at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, during the official launching of the Sharia'h documents, namely; The Gambia Sharia'h Law Report Volume 1, Gambia Judicial Lectures (Islamic Personal Law) Volume 3, Rules on Islamic Personal Law applicable in The Gambia, Cadi Appeal Panel Rules 2009 and Court (Civil Procedure) Rules. The documents were launched on the basis that they will enhance good justice delivery system in Cadi Courts (Islamic Sharia'h) aimed at instilling confidence in people who wish to access justice through it.

Scholars believe the documents launched would help many who are not well versed in Arabic language to learn and understand issues pertaining to marriage, divorce and inheritance. "This was an anomaly as the laws and rules applicable to the high court are not Islamic law and in most cases, judges that presided over those appeals are not learned in Islamic law. The creation of the Cadi panel has therefore corrected this anomaly to the satisfaction of many Muslims," the vice president stressed.

She noted that Islam is the religion of over 90% of the Gambian population and that Sharia'h or Islamic law has been part and parcel of the laws governing these Muslims prior to the coming of the colonialists over 400 years ago. She spoke about the unprecedented changes brought by the July 22 Revolution in recognising Sharia'h as part of the laws of The Gambia applicable to Muslims in matters of divorce, marriage and inheritance. "Sections of the Constitution also created for the first time, an appellate Sharia'h Court as well as provide for the establishment of Cadi Court in any part of the country," she added.

VP Njie-Saidy also informed the gathering that Cadi Courts have been established in five areas, notably; Banjul, Bundung, Kanifing, Brikama and Kerewan, while the process of establishing in other areas is on. Her words: "We all know that in the administration of justice, the basic tools of trade for any court are statutes and rules of procedure. However, it is sad to say that for over a century, there were no rules of procedure for the Cadi Courts in The Gambia. Therefore, another achievement of the July 22nd Revolution is the provision of rules of procedures for Cadi Courts and Cadi Appeal Panel in 2009 and 2010 respectively."

She added that the application of these rules by the said courts has brought significant improvements in the adjudication of cases in the Cadi Courts both for litigants and the courts. Dilating on the priorities of the government, the vice president stressed that strengthening bilateral relations for the benefit of the people of The Gambia is key and that through it the government has benefited a lot from friends and brothers such as Nigeria among others.

"During the continental celebrations of the Cadi Courts in 2006, I urged the Judiciary to expand the Cadi Courts countrywide and in 2007 Legal Year celebrations, I also challenged the judiciary to develop its own common law in the area of customary and Islamic law because the vast majority of the Muslims living in The Gambia are not versed in the Arabic language and the Sharia'h applicable to them in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance," she further stated, adding that the government is proud to see that the challenge has been taken seriously.

For his part, the Attorney General and minister of Justice, Lamin Jobarteh, hailed the Gambian leader, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh for making the day a reality. He said that he was not surprised that such an important event would come to reality, while recalling the president's comments in the year 2007 at the Legal Year celebration. He reminded the gathering that it is always the ambition of the Gambian leader that everybody has access to justice as a fundamental human right.

Emmanuel A Agim, the chief justice of The Gambia said that the Cadi Courts were established under the 1997 Constitution with an absolute mandate to manage and dispense Islamic justice to Gambians particularly in the areas of marriage, divorce and inheritance. He said that in those days, there were no rules and procedures at the Cadi Courts and that most proceedings were poorly recorded or even not recorded. He spoke about the significant of the rules and procedures of the court, saying they serve as check mechanisms. He then reminded the gathering about the establishment of new Cadi Courts in Brikama and Kerewan, hinting that others are in the offing.

Omar Secka, the chairman of the Cadi Appeal Panel recalled that the Cadi system was established during the colonial era upon the demand of the Banjul Muslim elders. He said that among the cases received, the Cadi Court has completed 105 and left with only three.

Momodou Lamin Touray, the president of the Supreme Islamic Council, said that mankind would not enjoy as the best of Allah's creation without having a legal system put in place that seeks to protect them. He applauded the government under the leadership of President Jammeh for strengthening the Cadi systems and Sharia'h law in the country, and his commitment to Islam.

Sheriff Tambedou, the president of the Gambia Bar Association said that Cadi Courts and the Cadi Appeal Panel are very vital to the judicial system of the country because they deal with issues of paramount importance, notably marriage, divorce and inheritance. He also spoke on the need for proper procedures of the Cadi Courts, saying more and more are using it frequently. "There is still a need for improvement and instill more confidence in the system," he added.

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