By Assan Sallah.
A High Court judge has been accused of coercing and manipulating the police in Brikama to release his niece, who was flaunting court orders and found to be in contempt by the Brikama Magistrate Court.
Bundung High Court Judge Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow is said to have used his position to allegedly intimidate the Brikama Police to illegally arrange bail for his niece, Neneh Jawneh Thompson, who allegedly refused to respect another judge’s order.
Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow is now facing an unprecedented lawsuit at the High Court in Banjul for violating a constitutional right to fair hearing. The suit was brought against Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow by Gambian international journalist, Sam Phatey. Phatey is a contributor on TRT World and TVC News Africa as political, security and global affairs analyst.
According to the High Court complaint filed by lawyers for Mr. Phatey, Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow’s interference in a case that is not within his jurisdiction and in his court violated Mr. Phatey’s constitutional right.
The complaint further stated that the embattled High Court Judge also assisted his niece in disobeying legitimate court orders in an ongoing court matter in Brikama.
“We are seeking a declaration from the High Court that the conduct of Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow is tantamount to violating my client’s right to a fair hearing. The lady was in custody because of a court order and the only way she could come out of that custody is by another court order,” said Malick H.B. Jallow, Lawyer for Phatey.
“There are two forms of detention. There is police detention and there is court detention. If it is a police detention, then the police can grant you bail, but in the case of a court ordered detention, only the court can release you. In this case, there was no application filed in court to seek the lady’s release,” Lawyer Jallow added.
Phatey, a longtime children’s and human rights activist wants the High Court of The Gambia to rule that Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow’s conduct in abusing his office and illegally obtaining bail for his niece is a violation of his constitutional right to a fair hearing and the rule of law.
Phatey is also demanding an unspecified amount of monetary compensation from Justice Momodou S.M Jallow. The lawyers for Phatey are also asking the court for any relief it deems fit to make against Justice M.S. Jallow, who aided his niece to act in impunity.
Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow said he did not receive any court summon yet. He, however, confirmed that he had called the Brikama Police Station to secure the release of Neneh Jawneh Thompson, whom he confirmed, is his niece and that they are both from Basse.
Justice Jallow said the detention of his niece was illegal and that he has the right to call the Brikama Police to get his niece released, saying those filing the complaint against him are using powers to undermine his niece’s rights. He is also claiming to be the High Court Judge overseeing Brikama though he is in Bundung.
“We cannot sit here and see Gambians rights being violated from left, right and center because people have powers to undermine the rights of others,” he said.
According to Momodou S.M. Jallow, the person who sought that court order did not have any “Locus Standi”, being the right to bring an action, to be heard in court, or to address the court on a matter before it. Locus Standi is the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case.
“The court has authority to make orders but when a court makes orders for parties who are not entitled, that order is null and void and has no effect and has no need for enforcement ,” said Momodou S.M. Jallow.
“You only have Locus Standi if you have a right to enforce. They don’t have any right to enforce because they don’t have any custody rights under Gambian law,” he added.
The case against Justice Momodou S.M Jallow was filed and registered before the High Court in December. The Chief Justice Hassan B. Jallow has assigned the case to High Court judge, Justice Amina Saho – Ceesay to hear the matter against Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow. The court is currently on vacation and will resume in the first week of January when Jallow will be served.
Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow was the Principal Magistrate at the Bundung Magistrate Court before his High Court appointment. President Adama Barrow appointed and sworn-in Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow as a Justice of the High Court in April following a recommendation from the Judicial Service Commission.
President Barrow was hoping that the appointment of Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow will help the Judiciary in regaining its lost image and public confidence. When Justice Momodou S.M. Jallow was being sworn-in, President Adama Barrow had challenged him to strengthen efforts to reform the judiciary.
An investigation found that Ms. Thompson continues to be in contempt of court for more than two months, claiming she is a U.S. citizen and that no court can force her to accept an order from a Magistrate in The Gambia.
Neneh Jawneh Thompson while purportedly in contempt of court and hiding from the police, who were frantically trying to rearrest her after reportedly realising that she was fraudulently granted bail, appeared on social media and on several media platforms discussing an ongoing court matter, brandishing the court procedures as fake. At the time of going to press, Thompson continues to be in violation of the court order.
Several postings on social media indicated that Neneh Jawneh Thompson had contacted the U.S. Embassy in Banjul. An unnamed officer at the Embassy had advised her to go through the court process. She had said that an embassy official had advised that they are unable to do anything until the court makes its ruling.
The author Assan Sallah is a Gambian journalist based in Germany. He was news editor of the Daily Observer. He currently serves as editor-in-chief of The Digest News.