By Mamadou Dem
A former Chief of Defense Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba and six other death row convicts on Tuesday, 4th November, 2014 appeared before a panel of seven judges headed by the Chief justice of The Gambia, Justice Eli Nawaz Chowhan, of The Gambia Supreme Court to review the death sentence handed down on them by the High Court and upheld by both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of The Gambia.
The applicants submitted before a full bench of the Supreme Court for a review of their dismissed appeal. The six other applicants are Brigadier General Omar Bun Mbye, a former Director of the National Intelligence Agency, Bo Badjie, Lt. Colonel Kawsu Camara of The Gambia Armed Forces, former Deputy Inspector General of, Police Modou Gaye, former diplomat Gibril Ngorr Secka and Abdoulie Joof, a businessman.
When the case was mentioned, counsel for the applicants, Sheriff Tambadou informed the court that there was an application filed on the 24th of March, 2014 praying for Gambia’s Highest Court to review the decision of the same court dated the 19th of October, 2012.
According to counsel, on the 19th of October, 2012 the Supreme Court dismissed the applicants’ judgment against the Gambia Court of appeal. He said the applicants were convicted of Treason and Conspiracy by the High Court of The Gambia in 2013 and were each sentenced to death.
Further submitting before the seven panel member judges, the defence lawyer disclosed that the applicants are seeking for the court to set aside its earlier decision on the applicants because it affects the sentence imposed by the High Court.
“We submit that such exceptions exist which justify for lordship to review the judgement of 19th of October, 2012,” said counsel.
According to the defence counsel, the argument and further amendments are contained in the further amendment of statement of case file in March, 2014 and the applicants wish to rely on all of them; adding that the amendment is supported by an affidavit sworn to by Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba.
At that juncture, the court observed that there was a final order in April, 2014 granting the application for further amendments of statement of case.
Further making his submissions before the court, counsel for the applicants argued that the further amendments of statement of case was not limited to the sentencing of the applicant, but their conviction as well.
“I humbly submit that the applicants have demonstrated that exceptional circumstance exists. Review of the judgment of this court to set aside the convictions of the applicants and also the sentence of death on each of the applicants,” counsel for the applicants submitted.
“I pray that the conviction on each of the applicants be set aside in the alternative that the sentence of death on each of the applicant be reduced to a lesser sentence,” he appeals.
The counsel for the applicants further argued that the proofs in this case shows that no violence took place, no one died or was injured; adding that the National Assembly for the past ten years did not review the desirability and non-desirability of the death penalty, the court should not ignore that the people of The Gambia should choose to review the death sentence after ten years.
Barrister Tambadou argued that the death sentence cannot be imposed because it has not been reviewed in the said stipulated period.
Addressing the court as Amicus Curiae, Hawa Sisay Sabally referred the court to the case of Mariama Denton against the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), High Court decision.
Replying on the arguments and submissions from the counsel for applicants, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hadi Saleh Bakun submitted that the amendment of statement of case was filed on the 26th of March, 2014 and served on the same day. DPP submitted that there are two issues for determination i.e. whether there is any necessity for the review of the judgment and whether any important matter was discovered which the applicant could not produce on the 19th of October, 2012.
He noted that counsel for the applicants raised the issue of miscarriage of justice by the applicants; adding that the applicants further went on to argue on treaties and the National Assembly not reviewing the sentence dealing with the death penalty.
At that juncture, DPP referred the court to Section 35 (1) (f) of the Criminal Code, laws of The Gambia. He said the evidence suggest that the applicants were rightly convicted. “It is trite law that a person can be convicted of an offence when the evidence is proved before the court ……”
At that juncture the Chief Justice ordered the matter to be adjourned to enable parties to adequately prepare for the argument of the case and consequently, the matter was adjourned till today for the DPP to continue his argument or reply.