ICC prosecutor faces charges of judicial interference in The Gambia
By Sainey Darboe:
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, engaged in acts aimed at defeating the ends of Justice in The Gambia’s judicial system, renowned Lawyer Lamin J. Darboe has charged in an explosive interview.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Standard, Gunjur-born attorney and barrister of the Supreme Court recalled:
“In 1999, as a senior magistrate at Brikama, I inherited the explosive case of IGP v Imam Karamo Touray, Lamin Waa Juwara, and others. Due to its high octane political nature, the case languished on the docket! For some eight months, the presiding Magistrate played for time and indulged endless prosecution requests for adjournment. When I took over as Principal Magistrate at Brikama, I allocated the case to myself and quietly announced to the prosecution and defence my intention to accord the matter utmost priority. In my third week at Brikama, the prosecution closed, and the defence, led by Lawyer Ousainu Darboe, opened with a no case submission. Having dedicated countless hours to the file, and having minutely perused the record, I ruled for the defence and terminated proceedings by acquitting all four remaining defendants.
With a truckload of armed paramilitary personnel surrounding the Court premises and environs, it was a dramatic day at Brikama. Although terrified, I was clear about my responsibility as a judicial officer sworn on oath to defend the Constitution and impartially apply the law. On the very next morning, I received a direct call from the Minister of Justice, currently the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and therefore distinguished global custodian of international human rights. She claimed my decision put her under a “lot of pressure” and demanded information on why I acquitted the accused. I told her to read the record”.
He added: “She wanted to know why, in just three weeks, I completed a case that was before another magistrate for some eight months prior. Again, I suggested she read the record. She demanded to know whether I even read the file, and yet again, I suggested she consult the record. Stunned, the then Honourable Minister and current global champion against international criminals, angrily relapsed to the staple mentality of PPP-era officialdom and demanded if I knew who I was talking to. “With all due respect”, I said, “you know what to do if you don’t like my decision”. She hung up!”
The then minister of Justice,in barrister Darboe’s telling,would go to considerable lengths to exact retribution for his pivot to greater judicial independence.He recalled:
“It was to be quite a busy morning for me. Within the hour, I received another call, this time from Aminatta L. R. N’gum, Judicial Secretary. During my first six months at the Judiciary, I worked directly under her as Senior Assistant Secretary. She asked if I “read the papers”. I answered that the story she was alluding to missed that day’s papers. Mrs N’gum then informed me that she just concluded a conversation with Chief Justice Alghali, and that the Minister of Justice lodged a complaint I “insulted her”. Mrs N’gum demanded a written apology to the aggrieved Honourable Minister.
I refused, and informed her in no uncertain terms that I would rather be dismissed than apologise to a politician for a judicial decision… Mrs Bensouda was in absolute error when years later she told Al Jazeera: “I have to say, you know, quite frankly that my work as Justice Minister has never been interfered with …” Without question, Mrs Bensouda’s legacy must incorporate all of her record. In celebrating her ‘fight’ against impunity and international lawlessness at the remote theatre of the ICC, we must also remember her as the Honourable Minister of Justice who threatened a local magistrate. Unquestionably, her dramatic, ill-advised intervention in the Brikama imam and co trial is an indelible part of the ICC Chief Prosecutor’s public record”.