11 June 2018

Gambia: Should a Person Be Tried for Sedition Without the Fiat of the Attorney General?

The Attorney General is the principal legal adviser of the Executive. Sedition deals with issues regarding the integrity of the Executive. Since the Executive is material in trying anyone for sedition how the executive regards anything said against his or her person as executive matters.

Arrests are done upon suspicion that one has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence. Charges are preferred upon gathering evidence that could be taken before a court. It is left to the court to determine whether upon the weight of the evidence it would dismiss the case or find the accused person guilty.

Since accusation does not necessarily lead to conviction, presumption of innocence is a must before trial. The crime known as sedition is being reviewed in many countries in the world today. Heads of state are beginning to realise that remarks against them which may be conceived to be derogatory would not have been heard by most people if they do not make them a subject of court action. However court action would make those remarks to continue to be mentioned in examinations and cross-examinations of witnesses and covered by the electronic and print media, thus giving them a permanent form. This is why many countries have decriminalise sedition. In the same vein countries restrain prosecution by leaving it to Attorney Generals to consult Presidents to get their opinions before they allow court cases on sedition to proceed. Hence before any court proceeds to hear a case of sedition it should first request for the fiat of the Attorney General.

We hope this practice will be respected at all times.


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