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Gambia: Justice Minister Tables Bill That Seeks to Prosecute Gross Human Rights Violators

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The Gambia’s Minister for Justice, Dawda A Jallow, on Monday, 21st April 2024, tabled a bill entitled Special Prosecutor’s Office Bill 2024.

The Justice Minister also tabled another bill entitled Special Accountability Mechanism (TRRC) Bill, 2024.

The Justice Minster and Attorney General tabled these bills during the first extraordinary session of the National Assembly of the Republic of the Gambia.

The Special Prosecutor’s Office Bill seeks to establish the office of the special prosecutor, who shall be tasked with investigating and prosecuting cases involving serious human rights violations identified in the TRRC from 1994 and 2017

The Special Accountability Mechanism Bill aims to provide a comprehensive framework for prosecuting individuals implicated in serious human rights violations identified by the TRRC between 1994 and 2017.

Tabling the Bill on the Special Prosecutor’s Office, before the plenary, the Minister for Justice, Dawda Jallow, told lawmakers that the Bill seeks to establish the office of the special prosecutor, who shall be tasked with investigating and prosecuting cases involving serious human rights violations identified by the TRRC from 1994 and 2017

“The bill also seeks to outline a procedure for appointing the special prosecutor, emphasizing the president’s role in the appointment based on the recommendations of a special panel, and that the appointee’s tenure is set at four years, with the potential for a single reappointment,” he told the lawmakers.

The Bill, he continued, also establishes the jurisdiction of the special prosecutor’s office, empowering it to prosecute cases related to human rights violations specified in the TRRC report, and the office has the flexibility to initiate prosecutions before judicial bodies or refer cases to international courts.

He added “The bill outlines the function and powers of the special prosecutor’s office, highlighting its independence, impartiality and discretion in investigations and prosecutions. The special prosecutor has extensive authority, guided by principles of fairness, impartiality and independence”.

Minister Jallow also explained that the Bill also establishes an oversight through the special prosecutor’s office, and oversight committees, responsible for monitoring performance, ensuring independence and accountability, appointing auditors, and overseeing the removal of the special prosecutor and senior management team.

“A special prosecutions fund is created under this bill, which is an independent fund dedicated to financing the operations of the special prosecutor’s office. The fund draws from various sources, including appropriations, donations, gifts and court-imposed penalties,” he pointed out.

The bill as highlighted by the Justice Minister, also outlines the transition of special prosecutor’s office to the special tribunal, ensuring the transfer of assets, personnel, operations and cases upon the establishment of the tribunal, saying “The special prosecutor oversees this transition”.

The bill includes provisions covering removal, immunity, succession, confidentiality obligations, data protection, compliance and training, aiming to ensure effective and ethical functioning.

Tabling the Special Accountability Mechanism (TRRC) Bill, 2024, Minister Jallow explained to the assembly that the Bill seeks to provide a comprehensive framework for prosecuting individuals implicated in serious human rights violations, identified by the TRRC, between 1994 and 2017.

“The Bill establishes the mechanism which encompasses the special prosecutor’s office, the special tribunal designed in the form of internationalized courts and tribunals and special criminal division of the High Court,” he told lawmakers.

He went on to state that the special accountability mechanism established in the Bill, envisaged to take advantage of regional and international support and expertise, and simultaneously, the mechanism aims to be as Gambian-driven as possible.

“To achieve this, a combination of Gambian and non-Gambian judges, prosecutors, experts and staff will be employed with a priority given to Gambia,” said Justice Minister Jallow.

As we go to press, the National Assembly members were still debating on contents of the Bills and got to consideration stage for one of them.

By Foroyaa.

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