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Judiciary Implements Mediation to Resolve Cases Pre-Court

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Hon. Hassan B Jallow, Chief Justice of the Gambia

By Buba Gagigo

The Gambian judiciary has introduced an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system to address cases before they reach the court.

Chief Justice Hassan B. Jallow explained that the primary aim of revitalizing the Court-Connected ADR system is to alleviate the court’s workload. This initiative aims to significantly reduce the number of cases judges must handle at the trial level, thereby freeing up valuable judicial resources and allowing judicial officers to focus on more contentious and publicly significant matters.

“As the people in the Gambia come to increasingly rely on what they undoubtedly see as an independent and impartial Judiciary, a larger number of cases are being filed in our courts daily, at a time when we are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit suitable candidates to the higher beach, due mainly to inadequate remuneration of judicial officers among other things,” Chief Justice Jallow said.

In 2021, the idea of reviving the previously dormant Court-Connected ADR system gained traction. Chief Justice Jallow noted that a one-day conference was convened to thoroughly discuss ADR in Gambian courts and develop a strategy for reintroducing the system to enhance judicial processes and improve access for all stakeholders.

“Following that Conference, I constituted the Court Connected ADR Committee, chaired by Hon. Justice Omar M.M. Njie JSC, assisted by Hon. Justice Zainab Jawara Alami of the High Court together and other members drawn mainly from the Private Bar, to work with the Office of Chief Justice to ensure that all necessary measures are taken for the successful adoption and implementation of ADR as part and parcel of our justice delivery mechanism.” the Chief justice stated.

The strategic use of mediation and other ADR forms for the timely and cost-effective resolution of court cases is central to the Judiciary’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025. This is embodied in Goal 4, which aims to improve the efficiency of court processes and service delivery, and Goal 7, which seeks to enhance access to courts and tribunals. A key objective is to review, revive, and strengthen the Court-Connected ADR system to reduce the court system’s burden.

“Indeed, the effective use of mediation and other forms of ADR for the timely and cost-effective settlement of cases filed in our courts is at the heart of the Judiciary’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025, as embodied in Goal 4 of the Plan which is to: Improve Efficiency of Court Processes and Service Delivery and Goal 7 which is to: Improve Access to the Courts and Tribunals, with the expressly stated aim that: “The Court Connected Alternative Dispute Resolution System will also be reviewed, revived and strengthened to reduce the burden on the court system,” he said.

The Judiciary also plans to expand the pool of ADR practitioners to include non-lawyers from various sectors of the economy, similar to practices in the United States, where ADR is integral to the justice delivery system. Mediators have been trained and certified by the renowned Edwards Academy, with support from the Weinstein Foundation in the United States.

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