Gambia’s Attorney General said the state will respect the ruling of the country’s Supreme Court that a law used by the former authoritarian ruler, Yahya Jammeh to oppress dissenting voices is constitutional despite the fact that the Justice Department disagrees with the ruling.
“My role here is to state that while we may not agree with the ruling of the Supreme Court on this, we will nevertheless, respect the decision. So as of now, the provisions of the Public Order Act remain enforced in this country,” said Aboubacarr Ba Tambadou.
“It must be understood this means accepting that our judiciary is independent and that we are totally committed to this independence. These are new times. It means we must practice what we preach. We must respect the rule of law.”
The Gambia’s Supreme Court ruled last week that the Public Order Act, which was used by the former regime to jail opposition activists for protesting without a permit did not violate the right to freedom of assembly.
Former opposition leader and now the West African nation’s Foreign Secretary Ousainou Darboe with his executives were given a three-year jail sentence last year for unlawful assembly after the killing of activist, Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
Darboe and other former political prisoners challenged the law that was relied on by Jammeh to have them imprisoned. A group of young people that were denied a protest permit last month have also threatened to follow suit.
“The Supreme Court has been given a task to interpret our constitution and we must respect their decision even if we disagree with it,” said Tambadou.
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has vowed not to interfere in the proceedings and with the decisions of the judiciary. The former regime stands accused of using the judiciary to jail opponents, journalists, and activists.
Under Mr. Jammeh, judges that ruled against the wishes of the government were fired, arrested and sometimes jailed on frivolous charges, including several chief justices of the Supreme Court.
President Adama Barrow pledged reforms and that that “rule of law will be the order of the day” in the New Gambia as he sought to draw a line under the erratic 22-year rule of his predecessor, who is accused of human rights abuses and siphoning billions from state coffers.