September 27, 2021
By Bubacarr Komma
The presumption of innocence is a legal principle that every person accused of any crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. This is an ancient principle which is still of vital importance in the modern world. Almost every constitution worldwide recognises this fundamental concept. It is also known as equality before the law, or isonomy, the basic principle recognises that all individuals should be treated the same manner by the law, while all persons should be subject to the same laws.
Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights formalises this basic right as: ‘All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination’.
However, this fundamental legal principle is not the case in The Gambia despite being guaranteed by the constitution. There are people accused of rape, and they are being held in Mile II Central Prison for almost a year, and in some cases for years without bail, despite some of them having fulfilled all bail requirements.
Indeed, rape is one of the worst crimes and no decent society would encourage it. However, when it comes to the application of law, presumption of innocence is fundamental and, in some cases, the evidence against the accused person could be very weak, yet they will be remanded and subjected to a very slow trial. In some instances, presiding magistrates and lawyers would absent themselves from court to attend workshops.
President Adama Barrow, Ousainou Darboe of United Democratic Party (UDP) and Halifa Sallah of People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) and other presidential aspirants should make this into a campaign issue and vow to ensure justice is done and speedily in the cases of alleged rapists languishing in our prisons. Certainly, they are Gambians who deserve speedy justice.
This reaffirms the saying that everyone is equal before the law, but when some cases go to court and are settled speedily while others like rape cases not, some citizens would look more equal than others before the law. This is very dangerous and discriminatory! Poor and vulnerable people should not be subjected to constant abuse and discrimination.