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May 22, 2017, 11:29 AM

Mr President, the victims of Yahya Jammeh and his thugs and gangs of bandits are enormous and can never be known fully.  Therefore, it is with tremendous efforts that some US/Gambian activists have established a centre for victims of human rights violation which was launched here last week. 

The establishment of such centre was a great initiative and we commend the support of your Cabinet especially the justice minister, who was seemingly in the forefront supporting the initiative. 

We think a more open and proactive approach to this great cause would instil a great sense of trust and hope in your government.  By that we meant other ministries should also be helping out as well.   For instance, the Ministry of Health can contribute in allocating some professionals to the centre who would provide the victims with counselling support because some victims are still very traumatised and clearly in need of great help.  Obviously, support from family members and friends is needed for getting through the first couple of days and months or even years, but it is a well known fact that victims of such trauma are left with nervous shock which could be ameliorated through counselling. 

Therefore, Mr President, professional help should be afforded to these victims or their families.  Studies have shown that with series of counselling support, victims of such violations have had tremendous effects on dealing with the lost or coming to terms with loss they suffered.  Counselling support helps victims and/or their families to cope and guide them on coping mechanisms to enable them to work through their thoughts and emotions.

Mr President, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that your government is to establish is a welcome initiative in helping the healing process of the country.  However, this commission should not and cannot be an alternative to bring the alleged criminals before the courts to face justice for their atrocities.

But it is also understood that the TRC and the pursuance of justice can go hand in hand, and since September – the proposed commencement period of the TRC – is just round the corner, we are eager to see what model of TRC your government would take. 

The victims of Jammeh’s atrocities have gone through years of physical and psychological torture; they now want to see justice for their loved ones and so a more open rapport with them would be beneficial in appeasing them while the formal processes are being followed. 

In this vein, it would be important to have an up-to-date list of victims, though this is a daunting challenge, it would make it relatively easier to help the government in dispensing justice to all who justice is due.  All the victims should be treated as one in order to avoid selective justice for that would be a disservice to their loved ones who sacrificed their lives.

Notwithstanding, we commend the ministries of the interior, and justice for a job well done in issuing arrest warrants for some assassins team members of Jammeh, who have been on a killing spree and also contributed in the enforced disappearances, torture, intimidation of any one perceived as dissent.

However, the masses are interested in knowing if this would be the same for other victims as well.  What becomes of the alleged killers of former minister Ousman Koro Ceesay and others; some of the alleged perpetrators in these cases are known but they are still going about their business, we wonder why.

Mr President, the arms of the law are long enough to be stretched to issue arrest warrants for all known culprits without sparing anyone.

Good day Mr President.