Investigation says abuses committed under former Gambian ruler should be prosecuted

Banjul, Gambia – Documenting widespread atrocities under the former Gambia’s authoritarian president, Yahya Jammeh, a commission of inquiry Thursday recommended several trials.

but the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission It has not made public its report or the names of people it recommended to prosecute, leaving it unclear whether Mr Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years before going into exile nearly five years ago, is among those who could face criminal charges.

In The Gambia, a small sliver of a country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Mr Jammeh’s fall from power in 2017 was met with jubilation.

But this mood has largely given way to disillusionment with the government of his successor, President Adama Barrow, who is running for re-election. Mr Jammeh and members of his regime have not been held accountable, government reform proposals have failed or stalled, and Mr Barrow has forged a political alliance with Mr Jammeh’s party.

“We expect the president to show some commitment, and to have the political will to fully implement the recommendations,” said Sherif Kejira, President of The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations. Jammeh must face justice at all costs.

Asked if the government would prosecute those responsible for the violations, Information Minister Ebrima Selah said over the phone: “I can’t commit to that,” saying it would depend on the merits of the report.

The commission reported the killing of 240 to 250 people in the custody of the state or its agents, as well as cases of rape, torture, disappearances and disappearances. witch huntIts president, Lamine Sis, said at a press briefing outlining the findings in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

The commission held 871 days of sessions, Streaming live online In an extraordinary public display of human rights violations. Among the 393 witnesses who testified were a soldier who said he killed a prominent journalist by order of the president, and a woman named Fatou Jallow. Mr. Jameh was accused of raping her.

The commission handed its report to President Barrow, who is supposed to deliver copies of it within a month to the country’s National Assembly and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

This means that it is not likely to be made public until after the December 4 presidential election. Among the candidates running against Mr. Baro Issa Fall, the chief counsel of the commission of inquiry.

Mr. Barrow has won the support of sections of Mr. Jammeh’s party, which does not field its presidential candidate and still enjoys significant popular support. Calling for the prosecution of members of the previous government could jeopardize this support.

Mr. Salah, the Minister of Information, said the president has six months to review the report, after which the government will publish a document providing its response.

Mr. Jammeh first took power at the age of 29 in a military coup, pushing through a new constitution that centralizes power in the president’s hands. His rule was marked by corruption and suppression of political opposition, the press, and gay rights. He claimed to treat HIV with herbs.

But the government held relatively free elections in 2016, and Mr Barrow defeated Mr. Jammeh, who refused to accept the results. Only after a military intervention by several neighboring countries in January 2017, Mr. Jameh relinquished power and moved to Equatorial Guinea.

Mr. Barrow’s administration was supposed to be a transitional administration that would set the Gambia on the path to democracy. But the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Mr. Jammeh’s finances were only partially implemented, and last year a new, more democratic constitution was defeated in the National Assembly.

The proposed constitution would have limited executive powers and limited the president to two five-year terms. The term limit would have applied retroactively to Mr. Barrow, so he could only have been allowed another term.

This made the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission the only remaining official path to reconciliation with the Jammeh era. Its final report was originally scheduled to be delivered in July, but was postponed until September and after that delayed again.

“We have the truth,” said Baba Haidara, a longtime campaigner for justice for the assassination of his father, newspaper editor Dida Haidara, in 2004. “Now we need justice. Justice for my parents, justice for all of Jammeh’s victims, and justice for the Gambian community as a whole.”

Psycho Jama Reported from Banjul, The Gambia, and Ruth McClain From Dakar, Senegal.

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