7 March 2014

Gambia: Pakistani Int'l Judge Sworn-in As Gambia's New Chief Justice

A Pakistani international legal luminary, who served as a judge at The Hague based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), was Thursday sworn in as the new chief justice of The Gambia.

Justice Eli Nawaz Chowhan, who took oaths of office, secrecy and allegiance before the Gambian leader and members of his Cabinet as well as the Pakistani ambassador to Banjul, replaces Ghanaian-born Justice Mabel Agyemang, who was recently shown the exit door after a brief stint at the helm of affairs.

Chowhan, who becomes the second Pakistani to get the Judiciary's top job in The Gambia, was sworn in alongside two other senior judges - Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle as president of The Gambia Court of Appeal and Justice Oledi Uko Uduma as a High Court judge.

Speaking at the occasion, His Excellency Sheikh Prof. Alh. Dr. Yahya Jammeh thanked the new Judiciary boss and the two judges for accepting the challenge, assuring of his government's commitment to ensuring quality dispensation of justice. He commented on the importance of the third arm of the government, but hastened to lament the many issues confronting sector.

"Every appointment comes with responsibilities and the most important responsibility is safeguarding the trust reposed in you," Jammeh told the new adjudicators. "We have appointed you as a brother to serve your second home and I have no doubt in your ability and integrity. Justice is universal but constitutions are unique and you are sworn-in as chief justice of The Gambia to implement Gambian laws, which are not promulgated by me, the president, but by the people of The Gambia so that every Gambian and anybody in this country will live according to the laws of this country so that there would be peace and order in this country."

The head of state also used his speech to comment on the longstanding relationship between The Gambia and Pakistan, a bond he said, that has grown into brotherly ties. He thanked Pakistan for contributing to the continued peace and security of The Gambia. He assured the newly sworn-in officials of his support at all times. Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Chief Justice Chowhan said he was honoured to be accorded such a privilege to serve in the Gambian judiciary. He commended President Jammeh for the powerful speech he delivered in Nigeria during that country's centenary celebration. "I was particularly impressed with human rights issue, the co-existence of fellow human beings, respect for religion that was extremely great," he said, while defining justice as "the faculty of the soul from which close actions lead to the sustenance of the system on which human civilization rests."

The CJ said he is particularly happy to note that rule of law exists in this country, observing that the Gambian constitution is a "wonderful document which I have read". He described as "extraordinary and unique' articles 214 of the constitution, which talks about dedication to democracy, peace, prosperity and justice as well as 199, which creates a civic education body to indoctrinate people with the ideals and goals of the country's sacred scripture. Other areas that fascinated me are the Law Foundation for the Development of Laws, Law Reform Commission Act, the Legal Aids Act, Cadi Courts Act, the Economic Crime Act, Hoarding Prohibition Act and the Courts Act itself relating to the administration of justice as well as the Ombudsman Act, he told the gathering.

"Some most advanced countries would also be missing these points, actions you take for instance on Law of Trafficking, you don't find many of them in great constitutions of the so-called world," he said.

The Pakistani, who was praised for a rich and distinctive career, promised to deliver to the best of his ability quality and dispensation of justice in The Gambia. Vice President Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy and other Cabinet members also congratulated the new officials on their appointments and assured of their continuous support and collaboration whenever the need arises. Brief profile of the CJ

Eli Nawaz Chowhan is an international legal practitioner with over three decades experience. He has previously served in various international functions as judge including the International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia. He was elected by the UN General Assembly at the time to serve as a judge at The Hague in 2006. He was also a Legal adviser to the president of Pakistan on International Law and Administration. He has also served in the Appeal Court of Pakistan. Chowhan is also a visiting Professor who did his legal training from Columbia Law School. He is a trained Professor in Sharia from Saudi Arabia amongst a host of others.

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