By Ndey Sowe
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) through the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors against organized crime (WACAP) in partnership with the Ministry of Justice on Friday organised a two-day retreat for National Assembly Members (NAMs) and other stakeholders to discuss the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill that is due for consideration at the National Assemble this September.
The retreat was aimed at raising awareness on the content of the bill and any amendments and /or additions that may be necessary so as to guide the members during their deliberations on the Bill.
The event, held at Tamala Beach Resort on Friday, the 10th to 11th of September, 2021 with contribution from the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), brought together dignitaries from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) offices in Banjul and Dakar, UN amongst others.
“Assisting countries in the West African region to build the necessary capacity to address the challenges of terrorism and organized crime is part of the fight against threats to the region’s security, stability and development related to the peace scope of KOICA’s vision,” said Christiana Fomenky from UNODC Dakar who spoke on behalf of KOICA.
She expressed hope that the end of the two-day retreat would be fruitful and would help The Gambia parliamentarians meet the system challenges with strong involvement and commitment through coordination among stakeholders and key actors of the field.
Speaking on behalf of the Justice Minister, Hussein Thomas, the Solicitor General and Legal Secretary at the aforesaid ministry, said given The Gambia’s continuous commitment to comply with international best practices, the bill is also drafted with the modern law and mutual assistance in criminal matters 2007.
He said recognizing all the needs to develop mechanism for international cooperation on mutual legal assistance to address illicit financial flows and combat transnational organized crimes and criminal networks, which continue to threaten global security and financial systems in our countries, the Ministry of Justice plays a pivotal role as the central authority responsible for addressing request from remanding states on mutual legal assistance.
“We have tabled a number of bills before the National Assembly for enactment. With the enactment of this bill into law, we will be able to have a robust sound legal framework that will address serious global criminal challenges that are detrimental to our national development agenda,” he said.
In the Gambia, a draft Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) Bill was submitted to the National Assembly for review and adoption during the June 2021 session. But due to the number of bills that were being voted on, it was postponed to October 2021.
It is believed that at the end of the retreat, the participants will have a better understanding of the mutual legal assistance bill and national assembly members will be able to defend it in front of their peers during the upcoming sitting.