Friday, September 29

Lawyer Sagarr brands Mile 2 prison “champion of human rights violation”

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Lawyer Sagarr Jahateh, the defence counsel representing Sainabou Mbye, Cherno Mbye, and Kibili Dembele, in the on-going alleged manslaughter case, has urged Justice Sidi K. Jobarteh, the vacation judge presiding over the case to either “conditionally or unconditionally” release the applicants.

She argued that the country’s central prison is known to be “champion of human rights violations”, and that remanding the accused persons at the facility without any charges is a violation of their fundamental human rights and liberty.

In her submission on Thursday at the Banjul High Court, Defence Counsel Sagarr Jahateh said: “My Lady, I want to urge the court to either conditionally or unconditionally release the applicants.”

“My lady, there’s no charges against the applicants. Therefore, their continued detention at the country’s central prison is illegal and in violation of their liberty and other international treaties that the state is binding to.”

“Since we don’t have any bill of indictment before this honourable court, I thus want the court to unconditionally release the applicants. In fact, there’s no law as to why the accused persons are still remanded at Mile Two Prison and I don’t even think this court has the power to remand them in prison again. Therefore, the court should exercise its power and release the applicants.”

“My lady, we all know the terrible condition of the Mile Two prison. The prison cells are not fit and there’s no proper sanitation. I submitted that the applicants are not prisoners nor are they accused persons. We have basic rights that should be protected talkless of someone who has been arbitrarily under detention because there are no charges filed against them.”

“Apart from the fact that Section 19 has been violated; the applicants have been detained at Mile Two without any charges illegally. To add salt to injuries, they have been further detained at a facility that we all know is a champion of violation of human rights. We all know even prisoners who have been convicted and are detained at Mile two encounter difficulties. The court should make sure the rights of applicants are protected thereby releasing them.”

“My Lady, the prosecution is still considering a legal opinion against the accused persons. Therefore, nobody knows how long the state will finish with their investigation. Therefore, there’s a possibility that the applicants will still continue to be detained at Mile Two Prison. Since the respondents are not ready to put the house in order, the applicants should be released unconditionally. Better still, they could be released on condition so as to enable them to appear in court any time they are needed,” she posited.

“Mile two prisons can’t be a safe house for the protection of any person because we have already said that it’s a place where human right violations take place. In fact, prisoners are treated in inhumane and degrading manner. So, how can the state say that Mile Two prison is now a safe place for someone? That’s not possible. Furthermore, it shows that the state is aware that the applicants need protection.”

“So, I am glad that they have come to that conclusion. The best place to keep them is by releasing them or alternatively providing a safe house and giving them and their families protection but not to keep them at Mile Two Prison. Furthermore, the state counsels have been threatened with violence, but they are not being kept at Mile Two Prison. They have been provided with security for them and their families. However, when it comes to the applicants, the only safe place for them is Mile Two prison. That shouldn’t be my lady.”

In his response, the state counsel, Muhammed Sowe, dismissed defence counsel Sagarr’s submission that the applicants are not charged, saying: “My lady, that’s incorrect. In fact, these are just mere arguments by my learned counsel, but they are not facts.”

“During our last sitting, the state made an application before the court to be given two weeks in order to file an indictment. This was granted by the court and besides the defence counsel didn’t make any objection to this either by application or not,” he said.

“With regard to counsel Sagarr’s submission about the condition of the prison, we don’t receive any facts about the condition of the applicants in the prison. Therefore, Sagarr’s submission is based on arguments but not facts.”

“Again, in the own documents of the defence counsel, they are saying that the applicants are charged with manslaughter. However, in their submission, they are taking a U-turn. Therefore, to say there are no charges against the accused persons is incorrect. Besides, both the orders of the 3 and 5 August are not contested by the defence counsel. So, we are still within our two weeks mandate as per the order given by the court. The applicants are not even shown to be truthful with their own facts. As far as the state is concerned, this court has the jurisdiction to further remand the accused persons. Again, when a case is transferred, the prosecution is given time to file a bill of indictment. Therefore, I urge the court not to grant them bail.”

The case is now adjourned to Thursday for ruling on the bail application filed by the defence.