Saturday, December 4, 2021

Court Orders State to Compensate Neneh Freda Gomez, Partners, for Unlawful Arrest, Detention

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By Mariama Marong

Justice B.A. Bakre of the High Court Annex in Banjul on Wednesday, 17 November, 2021  ordered the respondent (State) to pay a sum of D100, 000 (one hundred thousand dalasi) for the unlawful arrest and detention of the applicants (Neneh Frada Gomez, Gilbert Manga and Lamin Sey) on their own property, by the police.

Lawyer for the applicants was Rachael Y. Mendy and for the State was K. Tah.

On the 25 October, 2021, this case was called for hearing but was observed that 1st respondent, Hamadi Bah, was not served with notification. The Court pointed this out to the counsel of the applicant, and she orally applied for a withdrawal against the 1st respondent. At this point, the Court immediately struck out Hamadi Bah as 1st respondent to the case.

In moving on with her application, Counsel R.Y. Mendy relied on Section 5, 19, 22, 24, and 37 of the Constitution of the Gambia 1997, that the arrest of Neneh Freda Gomez, Gilbert Manga and Lamin Sey together with the 4th and 5th respondents by Inspector General of Police on Monday, 11 October, 2021 at Bilijo in West Coast Region, was unlawful and inconsistent with the above quoted Sections of the Constitution; adding that the detention of her clients from 11am to 7:17 pm was unconstitutional and contravenes Section 19 of the Constitution of the Gambia.   

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The lawyer for the applicants ordered for the unconditional release of Neneh, Gilbert and Lamin, and asked for payment of compensation to them in the sum of D1, 000, 000 ( one million dalasi) by the respondents jointly and separately, to each of the applicants for their unlawful arrest and detention.

On her part, Counsel R. Y. Mendy narrated the facts leading to initiation of the application as stated in the affidavit; adding that the Home of Medical Mission ( HOMM) is said to be a non governmental organization with head offices in the US; that it is registered in the Gambia with the purpose of developing and implementing a system of mobile medical clinic to reach out to remote and inland Gambian villages. He also added that (HOMM) owns a leasehold property with serial number K12/ 2007 dated 22  January, 2021, situated at Bilijo in West Coast Region; indicating that in 2016, Government through the office of the 4th and 5th respondents occupied that land and this was challenged in Court. He further reiterated that the matter was settled in favour of Home of Medical Mission on the 12 September, 2019, the Anti Crime Unit of the GPF vacated the premises and applicants occupied the land with permission from the Sheriff Division, but were later asked to vacate the property as it was alleged that the property had been handed over to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC); adding that

since the applicants refused to leave the premises on the ground that it belongs to HOMM,  they were confronted by a truck of policemen from the police intervention unit; adding that upon showing them the Court orders and property documents, they were arrested and initially taken to Senegambia Police Station, and  later transferred to Kairaba Police Station and charged with two counts of malicious damage to property and criminal trespass.

Counsel R. Y. Mendy urged the Court to grant relief on the fact as stated and controverted, that the applicants being the representative of HOMM, were harassed, arrested and detained because they were in defense of their property.

On behalf of the respondents, Counsel K. Tah said they did not file an affidavit in opposition but oppose the application on the point of law.

Justice B. A. Bakre in his ruling said the unlawful arrest of the three was inconsistent with the Constitution of the Gambia and their detention was unconstitutional and unlawful according to Section 19 of Constitution.

Justice Bakre ordered for the release of the applicants and ordered for the State to pay D100, 000 (one hundred thousand Dalasi) as compensation as an aggravated damage for each of the applicants, and a cost of D20, 000 (twenty thousand dalasi) for the action of the security against the respondents, jointly or separately.  

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