UPDATE: Gambia: Witnesses did not appear in GAMCOTRAP Case hearing
Four witnesses failed to turn up to testify in the allegation of theft case against GAMCOTRAP officials, Dr. Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang- Sissoho at the Banjul Magistrate on the 9th March at 2011. Prosecution Officer, Superintendent Sainey Joof applied for an adjournment of the hearing because four Prosecution witnesses (2 from the Upper River Region and 2 from the Central River Region) did not turn up in court. Prosecution Officer Joof told the court that a fax message has been sent on Friday to the Police in Basse to inform the women that they should report to the Court in Banjul to testify in the GAMCOTRAP case hearing. “We have subpoenaed them to come but they are not here. The main office here has sent the fax to the Police so that they can use that to inform them.” Update to Gambia: Yolocamba Director Accused of Rights Violation
The lead Defence Counsel, Amie Bensouda objected to the adjournment because the Prosecution had time four weeks, since the 3rd of February 2011 to arrange for its witnesses to come to the court. She informed the Court that it is against the Constitutional rights of the accused to delay the court process. She further noted that the Defence has not been notified about the specific witnesses who have been called to testify to enable the Defence Counsel to prepare for its cross examination and defence. Lawyer Bensouda reminded the new magistrate that his predecessor had already ordered the Prosecution to provide the Defence with all relevant information regarding the witnesses.
The Principal Magistrate Taiwo Ade Alagde informed Prosecution Officer Sainey Joof that the witnesses cannot be subpoenaed if they have not resisted appearing as witnesses. “These are respectable women and you cannot force them to come”, he asserted. After hearing from the Prosecution and the Defence, Principal Magistrate Alagde agreed to adjourn the case and noted that if the Prosecution witnesses are not available at the next hearing, the Prosecution will close its case and the Defence would start its case to avoid further delay.
It could be recalled that the witnesses being summoned to give evidence against the two GAMCOTRAP officials, Dr. Touray and Ms. Bojang-Sissoho. The Ex-Circumcisers who have been trained have made a public declaration to stop and protect girls from FGM. During the last hearing on the 3rd February 2011, the Director of Yolocamba, Begoña Ballesteros denied accusing the GAMCOTRAP officials of theft, nor did she bring them to court.
The Defence Counsel consists of Lawyers Amie Bensouda, Ebrima Jah and Lamin Mboge.
The GAMCOTRAP case continues to attract public interest. The court was once again packed full, amongst them a prominent Gambian Lawyer based in the United States, Edi Fall was in court to give moral support and observe the proceedings. It has been noted that for the first time in twenty court appearances, the Police Intervention Unit Official were not present in court during the GAMCOTRAP case.
Update on Court Hearing on Wednesday, 9th March 2011