‘Gambia should benefit from countries undergoing transitional justice’

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Sait Matty Jaw, a political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia has said that in pursuit to implement the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), The Gambia can benefit from other countries that share similar situations or have undergone transitional justice.

He made this remarks recently during a policy dialogue series organised by Tango on the theme “Transitional Justice in The Gambia: Lessons From Outside.”

He disclosed that over 20 African countries have applied some form of transitional justice mechanism in various ways, citing countries such as Mozambique and Ghana, which all in one way or the other have undergone the process after having consolidated democracy.

The political science lecturer hinted that the International Center for Transition Justice (ICTJR), defines transitional justice as the way countries emerging from periods of conflict and repression address large scale or systematic human right violations as well as serious issues that the normal justice system would not be able to provide an adequate response.

Ending impunity and enhancing reconciliation, he said, is a primary objective of societies evolving from violent conflict or autocratic rule, saying such societies have employed different transitional justice mechanisms to address past human rights violations.

According to him, there are four relevant approaches that The Gambia can take to pursue both judicial and non-judicial means to combat impunity and re-address the past atrocities and foster reconciliation. These approaches, he added, include trials and prosecution and the truth commission, institutional reform and reparations.

“From the above, transitional justice involves several overlapping goals including but not limited to establishing the truth about the past, end impunity for past human rights abuses, achieve compensation for victims, build a culture of rule of law, provide the basis for long term reconciliation, political transformation and checkmate the recurrence of such human rights abuses.”.

Transition justice, he acknowledged, is rooted in accountability and that transitional justice processes in Africa as argued by (Bosire, 2006) are generally constrained by expectations based on mitigating realities of institutional deficiencies, poor leadership, poverty and the gap between government and the people.

 “There is no one unique transitional justice model that can be copied and pasted from one situation to the other. From the few cases in other countries, The Gambia can draw valuable lessons from countries undergoing or have undergone similar process through the combination of transitional justice mechanisms.” he said.

He maintained that the cases of other countries have also shown that no single mechanism is capable of entirely addressing huge justice demands and that transitional justice processes tend to be more effective when implemented as part of a holistic approach.

He thus stated that TJ mechanisms from its design stage must be carefully situated to balance the demand for justice with the realities of what can be achieved, noting that cultivating modest expectations about the form of justice seeking mechanism adopted must bridge the gap between expectations and reality.

Author: Arfang M.S. Camara