By Edrissa Jallow, @EdrissaJallow10
Gambian Lawmakers passed the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Bill and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill during the First Ordinary Session of the 2023 Legal Year.
The Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Bill 2023 was passed on 27th March 2023 while the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2023 was passed the following day 28th March 2023.
Speaking to the National Assembly’s Communications Officer Mr Ebrima Bah earlier this week he confirmed to our reporter that “the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Bill, 2023 was also passed after the third reading…[and] the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, 2019 has just been read a third time and passed”.
According to a Tweet from the Ministry of Justice, the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act “seeks to prevent & eradicate the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment & to ensure accountability of acts of torture”.
The Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) unearthed the human rights violations which occurred during the 22-year misrule of former President Yahya Jammeh which include a significant amount of torture violations. It’s understood that the Act may not be applied retroactively, however, if torture is considered a crime against humanity, then there may be retroactive action applicable for torture.
During the Justice Minister’s speech in Parliament, while tabling the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2023, he explained that the Act “provides for mutual assistance between the Republic of The Gambia and other countries in the quest to improve the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes through cooperation and mutual assistance in criminal matters”.
A number of adversely mentioned perpetrators are currently being prosecuted abroad in Germany, Switzerland and the United States. This means that the Gambia can benefit more from working with other countries which the Mutual and Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2023 aims to achieve.
The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2023 will enable The Gambia to partner with other countries and to benefit from foreign legal expertise. In the context of the TRRC and the numerous perpetrators outside the country, this will help with extraditing some of the people who are adversely mentioned.
It could be recalled that the Fifth Legislature suspended eleven Bills in 2022 as a result of Justice Minister, Dawda Jallow’s failure to appear before parliament. The two Acts were amongst 11 other Bills suspended from Parliament’s Agenda. After the Sixth Legislature was voted into office the Speaker of the House, Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta paved the way for the Justice Minister to re-introduce all the unfinished bills.