By Yankuba Jallow
Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara has on Tuesday taken time to address Defence Lawyers in the NIA 9 trial for breaching their Code of Conduct by allowing their clients to misbehave in court.
On Monday, 19th April 2021 the accused persons were dressed in red t-shirts and red face masks in protest demanding for the Judge to recuse herself from the case. They refused to enter the dock when they were called upon to do so by the court.
Justice Sillah-Camara cited section 36 (1) of the Code of Conduct of Legal Practitioners which provides that “a Legal Practitioner is an officer of the court and shall endeavour at all times to assist the court in legal matters whether as instructed counsel or as amicus curiae.”
She also read the provision of section 37 (1) of the Code which reads “The duty a Legal Practitioner owes to the court shall always override his or her client’s interest.”
Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara faulted the Defence lawyers for allowing their clients to misbehave in court without stopping them.
“Your first duty is to the court,” she said.
Lawyers Emmanuel Chime, Sydney Kenedy and Kebba Baldeh informed the trial judge that the application for her recusal was coming from the accused persons and not from them. Lawyer Baldeh informed the Judge that his clients – Baboucar Sallah, Tamba Masireh and Lamin Darboe- are not part of the decision calling on her to recuse herself from the case.
Lawyer Antouman A.B. Gaye, lead counsel for the prosecution responded to Lawyer Baldeh by stating that on the second to last adjournment, Sheikh Omar Jeng, the 3rd accused person stood up and spoke on behalf of all the accused persons and said they want the Judge to recuse herself from the case.
“You were not present on that day,” Lawyer Gaye told Lawyer Baldeh.
Lawyer Gaye said Jeng’s statement was not contradicted by any of Baldeh’s clients.
“If they are ready to change, they can come,” Baldeh said.
However, Lawyer Gaye took time to address the court on the moral of the Defence lawyers. The Senior Lawyer said the duty of lawyers to the court is very important and as advocates, they should always ensure that they uphold their duty to the court.
“What appears to be happening now is that the accused persons are seeking to relegate their lawyers and take a front seat,” Gaye said.
He explained that lawyers’ duty to the court overrides all other duties including the duty to the clients. He said a lawyer is not expected to sit and watch blatant disregard to court orders by clients in court. He suggested that it could be a basis for a lawyer to withdraw representation.
“Your primary duty is to the court. You are officers of the court,” Lawyer Gaye said.
Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara on her part took some minutes to address the lawyers on their comportment. She said she was left flabbergasted on Monday in the way the lawyers comported themselves in the case.
“You cannot allow your clients, as lawyers, to attack the court. You should not have condoned that. I was really shocked,” the Judge said.
She explained that their comportment was a breach of Legal Practitioners Code of Conduct which places them as officers of the court, adding their primary duty is to the court. She said a lawyer is not expected to sit and watch a client misbehave in court.
“I was shocked. You sat and left your clients misbehaved before the court. They cannot dictate you. You are professionals. You allowed your clients come in red-red and protest before the court in defiant of the court order,” she said.
She cited provisions of the Code which provides that lawyers are officers of the court and their primary duty is to the court.
“Your duty to the court overrides your duty to your clients,” she said.
She said the accused persons were defiant to the court and they were contemptuous, adding the lawyers all sat and watched them without doing anything.
She said the Code provides for what is expected of a counsel as she urged them all of them to adhere to the provisions therein.
She said the behaviour of the accused persons was a good basis upon which a lawyer could withdraw his or her representation.
“You don’t standby and allow your client insult the court. You have a duty to the court,” she said.
The Judge said the accused persons must behave adding on the next adjourned date they can come but must be prepared to exercise decorum in court.
“They cannot be allowed to come here and misbehave,” she ruled.
Defence Lawyer Kenedy apologised on behalf of his colleagues. Lawyer Chime said he is prepared to withdraw his representation for Yankuba Badjie if he is not ready to change. Lawyer AAB Gaye said the Defence lawyers should advise the accused persons to change.
Seven former officials of the National Intelligence Agency are standing trial for the murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng and torture of UDP demonstrators, who took to the street on the 14th April 2016. The accused persons were Yankuba Badjie, a former NIA Director General, Sheikh Omar Jeng, a former deputy director of operation, Baboucar Sallah, Tamba Masireh, Haruna Suso, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sonko. They are facing 25 criminal charges and the case begun in 2017. The prosecution already called 33 witnesses who all testified in the case. The case is currently at Defence stage. Two of the accused persons, Sheikh Omar Jeng and Tamba Masireh, have concluded their testimony.
The case was adjourned to the 26th April 2021 at 1 pm for mention.