The coalition promised to adhere to the four fundamental pillars of governance, that is, democracy, the rule of law, respect for fundamental rights and good governance.
The right to life is the alpha and omega of fundamental rights; without life no other right could be safeguarded. Hence when life is lost in the hands of the state, no stone should be left unturned to find out the cause of death so as to prevent recurrence.
The Gambian law is not silent on what should be done if a person dies in police custody. It states in section 6(1) of the Coroners Act:
“When any person dies while in the custody of the police or of a prison officer or in prison ….. the police officer or the prison officer or any other person having the custody or charge of the deceased person at the time of his death shall immediately give notice of the death to the nearest Coroner and … such Coroner shall hold an inquiry into the cause of such death……”
Such Coroner shall exercise all the powers conferred by the Criminal Procedure Code upon a magistrate holding a preliminary inquiry.
What should happen at the end of the enquiry?
According to section 9 subsection (3),
“If at the termination of the inquiry the Coroner is of the opinion that an offence has been committed by some person or persons unknown, he shall record his opinion accordingly.”
However, subsection (4) of this section holds that “If at the termination of the inquiry the Coroner is of the opinion that no offence has been committed, he shall record his opinion accordingly.”
Then, “…. the Coroner shall forthwith transmit the proceedings or a certified copy thereof to the Chief Justice.”
Section 11 gives the Chief Justice power to order an inquest, direct any inquest to be reopened, quash the verdict in any inquest or quash any inquest.
A Coroner on the other hand has power to commit for trial before the high court when a person is brought before him/her charged with murder, manslaughter or infanticide.
It is therefore important for the authorities under the Barrow administration to adhere to the dictates of the law. A Coroner’s Inquest to look into the death of Lamin Krubally is urgent under the new political dispensation, which aims to adhere to the principles of transparency and accountability in state administration.
Everybody is watching. History is writing. Posterity will take stock. The future will tell.