30 January 2013

Gambia: Lt Sering Jallow Appears Before Court Martial Defence Counsel Urges Panelists to Recuse Themselves From Case

Lieutenant Sering Jallow, an officer of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), on Tuesday 29 January, appeared before the General Court Martial, at the Yundum Barracks to answer to a single count charge levelled against him by the State, for allegedly striking his recruit Sona Badjie who is his subordinate during recruitment of intake 30 between 2009 to 2010. However, Lt. Jallow did not take his plea as his lawyer, Edrissa M. Sissoho asked the members of the panel to recuse themselves from the case because his client has the feeling that he would not get a fair hearing as far as the panelists are concerned.

When the case was called, Judge advocate Justice Mikailu asked the accused person if he has any objection to the composition of the panelists to try his case. Lawyer Sissoho defending him, stood up and said the defence believes that the accused person would not get a fair trial. Sissoho said their reason is that the same panelists have tried and convicted Sergeant Manlafi Jarju and Corporal Karamo Jatta based on the evidence of the same complainant in the previous case. He added that the complainant in the previous case is the same in the case at hand. He noted that in essence the panelists have already made up their mind on the credibility of the said complainant in the other case and the same thing is likely to be in this one as well.

He cited section 24, sub-section (1) of the Constitution and read it out to the Court.

Sissoho said, "We believe that this component of the panel is partial and have shown its partiality in the previous case".

At this point, Justice Mikailu interjected and urged Sissoho not to use such language as he is a senior member of the Bar. However Sissoho maintained his stand that the Court has already believed in the same witness in the other case and they believe the same thing would happen in this one too. He indicated that it would be prejudice on their side to allow the same panelists to preside over a similar case of the same complainant. He asserted that they want another composition to try his client as the present one has already made up their mind on the previous case. He added that if they can even object to the appearance of the Judge Advocate, they would do so.

At this stage, DPP Barkum stood up, but was ordered by the Justice Mikailu to sit down as he has no say in the objection made by Sissoho. The president of the Court, Colonel Paul S. Gomez, stood down the case for 15 minutes for the panelists to brain storm on the objection of Sissoho.

When the Court resumed, Colonel Gomez indicated that they had considered the argument forwarded by Sissoho and they believe the case of the accused person has no bearing on the other case. He added that cases are decided based on the basis of evidence against an accused person. He posited that Sissoho did not present any evidence of bias against any member of the panel. He stated that for the fact that the Court has tried and convicted Manlafi Jarju and Karamo Jatta cannot be taken as a basis for his objection. He posited that though the objection has no merit, but for the sake of justice, panelists Captain Abdoulie Sarr and Lieutenant Oumie Saine had decided to step down and would be replaced by Captain Abdoulie Saine and Lieutenant Ndongo Lowe, respectively.

The case is adjourned till Today for plea taking.

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