By Yankuba Jallow
The Gambia Supreme Court on Friday, December 30th, declared that the Commission of Inquiry probing into the financial dealings of ex-president Jammeh and his close associates, fondly called ‘Janneh’ Commission, cannot be made a party to any suit. This came about when the Commission’s lead Counsel Amie Bensouda, addressed the Supreme Court that the Commission cannot be made a party to any suit.
Lawyer Ida Drammeh, the attorney to Feryale Ghanem opposed the submission of Lawyer Amie N.D. Bensouda’s stating that the Commission should be a party.
The panel included Justice Hassan B. Jallow, Justice GBS Janneh, Justice RC Sock, Justice CS Jallow and Justice MM Sey.
Lawyer Bensouda in her argument before the Supreme Court said the Commission is an adjudicatory body and that it should be subjected to any suit in matters relating to its decisions (orders).
“A tribunal (as an adjudicating body) should not be summoned to come to court to defend its decisions (orders),” she said.
She referred the court to the decisions of the Gambia Court of Appeal in the cases of Muhammed Bazzi versus the Commission of Inquiry and Fadi Mazegi versus the Commission of Inquiry. She said in those cases, it was held that the Commission of Inquiry like the High Court is not a proper party to be in a suit.
“It is my submission that the Commission of Inquiry should not be a necessary party to any suit but the Attorney General by virtue of the States Proceedings Act,” she submitted.
She made an application for the Supreme Court to strike out the name of the Commission as a defendant in this suit.
She said it was stated in the decision of the Court of Appeal that an aggrieved party can appeal against the interim orders of the Commission but that the Commission cannot be a proper party to any suit.
Lawyer Ida Drammeh in her counter argument cited rule 45 of the Supreme Court Rules that any party likely to be affected by a suit should be served and heard. She added that the Commission is likely to be affected by any decision by the court by virtue of sub rule (3) of the said Rules.
“Rule 45 of the Supreme Court Rules is in accordance with section 24 of the Constitution. The Commission of Inquiry should be made a party,” she said.
She said the arguments made by Counsel Bensouda relying on the decision of the Court of Appeal ignores the requirement of the rules of the Supreme Court; that a party likely to be affected by a suit should be made a defendant.
“It is my submission that the Attorney General cannot be a Counsel for the Commission because of the nature of the Commission. We are not even sure whether there won’t be conflict of interest. The Commission is an independent body,” she said.
She said if the Attorney General is allowed to represent the Commission then it is more likely that he is the Counsel for the Commission.
The Supreme Court has resolved the sole matter which is ‘can a Commission of Inquiry be a party to any suit’ in favour of Counsel Bensouda. The Coram held a unanimous decision that a Commission of Inquiry like the High Court cannot be made a party to any suit.