Abuses by ex-Gambia leader should be prosecuted, survey says| Breaking News Updates
Abuses by ex-Gambia leader should be prosecuted, survey says
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BANJUL, Gambia – Documenting the wide-ranging atrocities committed under the autocratic former President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, an investigative panel Thursday recommended several prosecutions.
But the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has not made public either its report or the names of the people it had recommended for prosecution, which does not reveal whether Mr. Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years before going into exile almost five years ago is among those who could face criminal charges.
In The Gambia, a tiny fragment of a country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Mr. Jammeh’s fall from power in 2017 was greeted with jubilation.
But this state of mind has largely given way to disappointment with the government of his successor, President Adama Barrow, which is seeking 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 entered into a political alliance with Mr Jammeh’s party.
“We expect the president to show some commitment and have the political will to fully implement the recommendations,” said Sheriff Kijera, president of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations. “Jammeh should face justice at all costs. “
When asked if the government would prosecute those primarily responsible for the abuses, Information Minister Ebrima Sillah said over the phone: “I cannot commit to this,” saying it would depend on the good- substantiated report.
The commission reported the deaths of 240 to 250 people held by the state or its agents, as well as rapes, torture, disappearances and witch hunts, its chairman, Lamin Sise, said during a briefing. press describing the findings in Banjul, the Gambian capital.
The panel held 871 days of hearings, streaming them live online in an exceptionally public broadcast of human rights violations. Among the 393 witnesses who testified were a soldier who said he killed a prominent journalist on the orders of the president, and a woman, Fatou Jallow, who accused Mr Jammeh of raping her.
The commission submitted its report to President Barrow, who is expected to deliver copies within a month to the country’s National Assembly and the United Nations Secretary General.
This means that it will likely not be made public until the presidential election on December 4. Among the candidates vying against Mr Barrow is Essa Faal, the top lawyer on the board of inquiry.
Mr Barrow has garnered support from segments of Mr Jammeh’s party, which is not fielding its own presidential candidate and still enjoys considerable popular support. Advocating the prosecution of members of the previous government could undermine this support.
Mr. Sillah, the information minister, said the president would have six months to review the report, after which the government would issue a document giving its response.
Mr Jammeh first seized power at the age of 29 in a military coup and passed a new constitution concentrating power in the hands of the president. His reign was marked by corruption and the suppression of political opposition, the press and LGBT rights. He claimed to cure HIV with herbs.
But the government held relatively free elections in 2016, and Mr Barrow defeated Mr Jammeh, who refused to accept the results. It was only after a military intervention by several neighboring countries in January 2017 that Mr. Jammeh relinquished power and settled in Equatorial Guinea.
Mr Barrow’s administration was supposed to be a transitional administration, putting The Gambia on the path to democracy. But the recommendations of a commission of inquiry into Mr Jammeh’s finances were only partially implemented, and last year a new, more democratic constitution was rejected in the National Assembly.
The proposed constitution would have restricted executive powers and limited a president to two five-year terms. The term limit would have applied retroactively to Mr Barrow, so that he would only have been entitled to one additional term.
This left the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission as the only remaining official channel to come to terms with the Jammeh era. Its final report was originally due in July, but was delayed until September and then delayed again.
“We have the truth,” said Baba Hydara, who has long campaigned for justice for the 2004 murder of his father, the editor of Deyda Hydara newspaper. “Now we need justice. Justice for my father, justice for all victims of Jammeh and justice for Gambian society as a whole.
Saikou Jammeh reported in Banjul, The Gambia and Ruth maclean from Dakar, Senegal.
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