Gambian investigators demand justice for abuses committed under Jammeh

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BANJUL, Gambia – Investigators from The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission on Thursday delivered a final report to the President, identifying and recommending prosecution for those primarily responsible for crimes and human rights violations committed during the 22-year rule of the former President Yahya Jammeh.

After receiving the report, President Adama Barrow said he hoped the commission would be one of his legacies as ruler of The Gambia.

After his election in 2016, Barrow pledged to right the wrongs of the past, especially the widespread abuse under former leader Jammeh. The commission was mandated to take an impartial historical record of abuses committed from July 1994 to January 2017, when Jammeh fled into exile after losing the election. More than two years of hearings leading up to the report documented the human rights violations and horrors that occurred during Jammeh’s rule.

His submission comes just before the 2 million Gambians vote in the presidential elections on December 4, in which Barrow is running for re-election against five other candidates.

After submitting the report, Commission Chairman Lamin J. Sise said that “individuals implicated in the commission of the violations and abuses must be held accountable for their crimes” and their names are “specifically mentioned in the sections. relevant to the report ”.

The commission found that the abuses resulted in the deaths of “240 to 250 Gambians and non-Gambians at the hands of (the) State or its agents”.

Sise did not mention the names of those the commission recommended for prosecution, however, Jammeh is likely among them, experts say.

“The evidence is in … We have the truth,” said Baba Hydara, whose father Deyda Hydara was a newspaper editor who was killed in 2004.

“Now we need justice,” he said. “Justice for my father, justice for all victims of Jammeh and justice for Gambian society as a whole.”

The Gambia National Human Rights Commission called on the government to commit to implementing the report’s recommendations.

The government now has “a duty to take the next important step,” the national human rights watchdog said in a statement released today and seen by the PA. “We urge the President to review and share the report with all relevant stakeholders … and to put in place all the mechanisms, institutions, processes and resources necessary to implement all recommendations fully and adequately within a realistic timeframe. . “

Similar calls have been reiterated by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, urging the Barrow administration to ensure victims get redress.

Jammeh is likely at the top of the list of former officials recommended for prosecution, said Reed Brody of the International Commission of Jurists, which works with victims of Jammeh.

“Witnesses with first-hand knowledge implicated Jammeh in killings, torture, rape and other terrible crimes cited by the commission,” Brody said.

“This report starts the countdown to the day when Yahya Jammeh will have to face his victims. Whether in The Gambia or before an international tribunal, it will now be very difficult for him to escape justice,” he said. -he declares.

The commission’s report will not be made public immediately.

Barrow, who received the report in the Gambian capital, Banjul, now has six months to publish a document on how to implement the recommendations submitted by the commission. He promised Thursday that “justice will be done”.

“I assure (the families of the victims) that my government will ensure that justice is done, but I urge them to be patient and let the legal process run its course,” the Gambian leader said. He promised his white paper would be tabled within six months. In the meantime, he will share copies of the report with the country’s legislative body, the UN Secretary-General and the African Union.

“In the meantime, I advise all Gambians to show restraint,” Barrow reiterated.

A recent rapprochement between Barrow’s National People’s Party and the former ruling party has cast doubt on the authorities’ willingness to right past wrongs by ensuring justice is done.

Barrow sought an alliance with Jammeh’s former party in September, a move denounced by rights activists. Jammeh, however, has formed a rival party, and many of his supporters hope he will return from exile.

Jammeh, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, was removed from office in 2016 after opposition parties formed a coalition with Barrow as the main candidate.

After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh resisted, and a six-week crisis saw neighboring West African countries prepare to send troops to stage a military intervention. Jammeh was forced into exile and fled to Equatorial Guinea on a plane with his family and many personal effects.

Jammeh, 56, still enjoys tremendous support in the small West African country, despite the abuses under his rule.

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Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.


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