Gambia: National Assembly Should Respect the Constitution Death Penalty for Drugs is Unconstitutional
National Assembly members cannot make any law they wish. Whatever bill they pass must be in line with the constitutional provisions. The Constitution of the Gambia states under section 4 that "This Constitution is the supreme law of the Gambia and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this constitution, shall to the extent of the inconsistency, be void." A seasoned National Assembly member must first gauge whether the provision of any bill is contradictory to the provisions of the Constitution or not before giving approval. Any provision which is contrary to a Constitutional provision should be rejected.
The question now arises: Why did Foroyaa say that the National Assembly should respect the Constitution?
Are we implying that the National Assembly does not respect the Constitution? Well let us put what we mean in black and white.
Section 17 subsection (1) of the Constitution states very clearly that "the fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this chapter shall be respected and upheld by the organs of the Executive and its agencies, the Legislature and, where applicable to them by all natural and legal persons in the Gambia and shall be enforceable by the Courts in accordance with this constitution."
Now should the National Assembly pass a bill which imposes death penalty for trafficking in Cannabis and other drugs?
They should not if they respect the provision of section 18 subsection (2) of the Constitution which states that "As from the coming into force of this Constitution no court in the Gambia shall be competent to impose a sentence of death for any offence unless the sentence is prescribed by law and the offence involves violence or the administration of any toxic substance, resulting in the Death of another person."
Hence it is clear from this that the death penalty could only be imposed for offences involving violence or the administration of toxic substances which results in the death of another person.
It is therefore the best thing for the president not to assent to the bill but return it to the National Assembly for review.
In our view, the National Assembly should in fact respect the dictates of Section 18 Subsection (3) of the Constitution which states that " The National Assembly shall within ten years from the date of the coming into force of this Constitution review the desirability or otherwise of the total abolition of the death penalty in the Gambia." This is now the 13th Year since the Constitution came into force and the dictates of the Constitution is still honoured with disregard.