In Alleged Human Trafficking Case
By Mariama Marong
Justice Ademola Bakre of the High Court Annex in Banjul, on Tuesday April 22nd 2022, acquitted and discharged one Marie Mboob, who was responding to criminal charges at the said Court, for her alleged involvement in a human trafficking case.
Marie Mboob, was charged for being an intermediary for the purpose of trafficking contrary to Section 29 of the Trafficking in Person Act.
According to the particulars of the offence brought against her, Marie Mboob, in the year 2017 at Nema Kunku in the Kanifing Municipality, participated and was concerned with travels of one lady (name withheld), from Gambia to Lebanon for the purpose of trafficking by facilitating her departure and linking her to an employer who received her at Lebanon Airport.
The prosecution called three witnesses for the case and tendered two exhibits marked PF1 and PF2, just to prove their case.
However, Ms. Mboob succeeded in her “no case to answer” submission which she made after the prosecution closed their case.
The Judge held that the State has failed to establish a case against Ms. Mboob to require her open her defence as he acquitted and discharged her on all the counts she faced.
After carefully examining the testimony of the 3rd prosecution witness (the victim), Justice Bakre said Section 28 (2) of the Trafficking in Person Act is clear on what trafficking constitutes, and defined trafficking as ‘‘the recruitment of, provision of, transportation, transfer, harboring, receipt or trading in person; or the use of threat, force or other forms of coercion, abduction, kidnapping, fraud, deception; the abuse of power, or a position of vulnerability; giving or receipt of payment or benefits to achieve the consent of the person having control over another person.’’
The Judge said the accused person has been charged for facilitating the trafficking, but instead she stood as the intermediary for the alleged act of trafficking.
Counsels H. Gaye, Achigbue for the accused person submitted to the Court that the evidence presented by the prosecution is unreliable and does not constitute the ‘actus reus’ (guilty act) and ‘mens rea’ (guilty mind), which are essential ingredients in proving a crime. She referred the Court to Section 166 of the Criminal Procedure Code and urged them to acquit and discharge the accused person. She submitted that the prosecution failed in their duty to establish a case against her client. He said the testimony of PW3 (the victim), was in favour of the accused person.
The prosecution filed a reply on the “no case to answer” submission by the defence. The prosecution argued that the evidence provided to the Court was sufficient and that it proved the ingredients of the offences as charged. On his part, Prosecuting Counsel S.L. Jobarteh submitted that the evidence adduced have not been discredited under cross-examination, and urged the Court to dismiss the “no case to answer submission” labeling it as one without merit.
Justice Bakre in his ruling said from his understanding of the offence under Section 29 of the Act, it must be established that the accused person is an intermediary for purpose of Section 28. He asserted that Section 28 clearly cannot be established without the establishment of the fact that the act was for the purpose of exploitation.
He added that he has looked at the evidence of PW 1 and 2 which did not portray the intention of the accused person.
On the part of PW 3 (the victim), Justice Bakre said her testimony was that the accused person (Marie Mboob) did not set out in any way to exploit her. The Judge said the alleged victim also stated in her testimony that the effort of the accused person was to assist her and not to exploit her. The Judge pointed out that the alleged victim stated in her evidence that if the accused knew about her ordeal, she would have come to her rescue.
Justice Bakre noted that the “No Case to Answer” submission was made on the grounds that the essential ingredients of the offence as charged, were not established. He said the Court arrived at the conclusion that there is ‘‘no case to answer’’ to and ruled that the prosecution did not establish the intention to exploit as provided in Section 28.
The Court held that the prosecution throughout the case has not established a prima facie case to warrant the Court to ask the accused person to enter her defence.
At this juncture, Justice Bakre, the Justice of the High Court Annex in Banjul ruled that the no-case submission succeeded and the accused person Marie Mboob, is acquitted and discharged by his Court.