The New Gambia was supposed to get past jungle justice. All citizens should and must be accorded equal justice and fair representation regardless of their financial background or ethnic origin. The poor farmers in particular are the most vulnerable to jungle justice where magistrates only cares about passing judgement in favor of who can afford what. Police are supposed to be the custodians of the law and order and they have the responsibility to ensure that citizens are accorded fair and equitable justice.
In Mansakonko Lower River Region, a foreign magistrate colluded with police prosecutors and plaintiffs to force a guilty plea on an innocent citizen. Haruna Baldeh from Juta Kunda near Jarra Pakaliba is Remanded in custody in Georgetown prisons for almost 10 days for refusing to accept a guilty plea for a crime he said he did not commit. He has been accused of stealing three cattle he has been taking care of for several years. The three animals were one day released and never returned. The owner accused Haruna of stealing the cattle. The accused said he has no idea where the cattle are and what happened to them.
The plaintiff one Amadou Jallow a shop owner in Pakaliba insisted the accused stole the animals. He allegedly teamed up with one Police command O.C Darboe to arrest and prosecute the accused. Without the presence of a legal representative, the magistrate forced a guilty plea on the accused. He quickly prosecuted the accused without a legal representative or at the very least a public defender. There was no credible police investigation of the case that would present evidence that the accused indeed is responsible for the loss of the animals. The magistrate inconclusively shelved the case and sent the accused straight to Remand in Georgetown on February 28th, 2018 for refusing to accept guilt. The accused who insisted that he was innocent said he will not pay for something that he did not steal and that there was no evidence that he stole the animals.
Police Claim no Vehicle to Transport Accused to Court!
On Wednesday March 7, 2018 the accused was supposed to appear in court for review and reconsideration of the case. However, the accused failed to appear in court because the police claimed there was no transportation to transport the accused to court from Georgetown prison. The magistrate inconsiderately adjourned the case without ordering bail and release of the accuse for no fault of him to appear in court. When family members asked for a copy of the judgement the magistrate refused to provide them a copy and instead adjourned the case to next Tuesday March 12th while the accused continue to be remanded for an alleged civil crime.
In a country where justice is only accorded to the most affluent or those who can afford to bribe their way through, an innocent citizen is serving time behind bars for a crime he may never have committed. Several efforts were made to speak to OC Darboe who picks up the phone and hangs it right back up. A local reporter contacted the police and the court to get more information about the case and a copy of the judgement. He was told not to report the story because the accused would be freed and discharged on Monday March 5th. The moral question that many people are asking is why the magistrate refused to release a copy of the judgment to the family? Why was the accused not accorded legal representation as required by law? What were the evidence against the accuse that proofs that he is in fact innocent.
For full disclosure purposes this reporter is a family member of the accused. He has tried every way possible to speak to O.C Darboe and the magistrate through the local court interpreter to no available. The family is taking this trample on justice seriously and will ensure that the case reaches the attention of authorities on the police conduct and the unfair treatment of the magistrate. The attention of the justice minister, the solicitor general and other relevant authorities is drawn to this case. The human rights of Gambians especially the poor should never be taken for granted again. The family will immediately engage a lawyer to ensure that justice is rendered for Haruna and the violations of his citizen rights are adequately addressed. In the new Gambia no innocent citizen no matter what you have or where you came from should be subjected to unfair treatment or judgement as every citizen is equal under the eye of the law. Justice delay is justice delay…
Story written and filed by Demba Baldeh Associate Editor