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National Assembly Considers Criminal Offences Bill 2020

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By Ramatoulie Jawo 

The National Assembly of The Gambia commenced deliberations on Monday, March 11, 2024, on the Criminal Offences Bill 2020, with several amendments proposed.

Introduced by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Honorable Dawda A. Jallow, the bill aims to modernize criminal justice statutes, eliminating provisions impeding freedom of speech such as criminal defamation and sedition.

One significant proposal in the bill is to empower Gambian courts to prosecute offenses committed abroad by individuals who subsequently enter The Gambia, rather than extraditing them.

Following the bill’s second reading, which involved thorough discussion on its principles, it was referred to the National Assembly’s standing committee on human rights and constitutional matters for detailed examination.

The committee’s report was adopted by members, which guided the plenary during the consideration stage. 

Upon the adoption of the committee’s report, which informed the plenary session’s discussions, several amendments were proposed. Notably, Clause 1 was recommended to be rephrased as the Criminal Offences Act, 2024, instead of the original Criminal Offences Bill, 2020.

Furthermore, Clause 3’s definition of “disciplined forces” was revised to encompass armed and security forces. Additionally, modifications were suggested for Clause 46 concerning inducement of desertion among armed forces or police members.

Regarding incitement to violence and hate speech, harsher penalties were proposed, suggesting imprisonment ranging from three to five years.

Incitement to violence and hate speech

(1) A person, who, without lawful excuse, prints, publishes or to any assembly, makes any statement indicating or implying that it would be incumbent or desirable to do any acts calculated to-

(a) bring death or physical injury to a person or to any class or community of persons; or

(b) lead to destruction or damage to any property, commits an offence for which he or she may be arrested by a police officer without a warrant, and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for three years.

The committee recommended that a person who incites violence be convicted for not less than three years and not more than five years, instead of three years.

After a day-long session, the parliament was unable to complete the consideration stage of the bill, which contains over three hundred clauses, halting progress at clause 87.

Hon. Bakary Badjie, representing Foni Bintang, proposed extending the session past 6 p.m. to conclude the bill’s consideration. This proposal was supported by Hon. Fatou Cham of Sanimentereng. However, Gibbi Mballow, representing Lower Fulladu West, later withdrew the motion to extend the session, which was seconded by Hon. Assan Touray.

Consequently, the speaker adjourned the sitting until Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

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