Abiodun Jacob Dada, husband of Gambian high court judge who sentenced an opposition leader in July to three years in prison for taking part in an anti-government protest has been appointed a Justice of the West African nation’s high court by the country’s military-backed strongman, President Yahya Jammeh.
A.J. Dada was sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court of The Gambia last week by Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy and would be a judge at one of the Special Criminal Courts. His wife, Justice Eunice Dada is a judge at one such special criminal courts.
Justice Eunice Dada has been accused by opposition supporters of being used as a machinery judge, after earlier reports that her husband was bidding to become an adjudicator.
Eunice Dada also sent to prison with Darboe and at least fifty others an American citizen of Gambian descent, Fanta Jawara, whose family said she was around the protest area and got arrested but was not participating. U.S. Envoy Samatha Power has demanded her release.
Jawara did not testify during the trail and Justice Eunice Dada said that although the U.S. citizen was not part of the protesters, she was given mandatory prison time for refusing to enter her defense.
“Fanta Darboe as a nurse could have defended herself and refused, therefore, I do not believe her….. Fanta Darboe is convicted because she refused to defend although no evidence against her,” Eunice Dada
UDP leader Ousainou Darboe, a human rights attorney said that their conviction was already predetermined and accused Eunice Dada of not following proper legal procedures during the trial.
Lawyers for Darboe and at least 19 other defendants walked out of court citing the impartial nature of the judge.
Darboe and other members of his executive, backed by some supporters took to the streets of Banjul in April after Gambian authorities arrested a handful of electoral reform campaigners and tortured them. A senior member of Darboe’s UDP party was among those tortured and died of his injuries.
The UDP is the country’s biggest opposition party and has posed the biggest threat to Mr. Jammeh’s rule.
Gambians have since demanded the Nigerian Bar Association to take action against their members and citizens who are used by The Gambia’s government to violate their rights. The majority of the judges in Gambian courts are Nigerians, stemming from Commonwealth technical support.
The Gambia’s justice system is one of the least independent in the world with appointments and firings done at the will of the president, Yahya Jammeh. Judges that rule against the government are subjected to arrest and often, termination.
The Gambia has had more than three Chief Justices within the last five years, three of whom are Nigerians.