Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambedou has
announced that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, with appropriate
reparations for victims, would be set up within the next six months, and public
hearings will be expected to commence by the end of the year.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference at
his office in Banjul, the Justice minister said consultations are currently
taking place to identify appropriate persons of high moral character and
integrity, from a cross section of our social, cultural and religious communities,
for appointment as commissioners to the commission.
He explained that a public information and
awareness campaign shall also be launched soon, to start discussions on
national television and private radio stations throughout the country, about
the purpose and objective of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Jammeh finances investigation
Mr Tambedou also announced his ministry is
in the process of finalising the draft terms of reference for the establishment
of a commission of inquiry to look into the financial and business related
activities of the former president, Yahya Jammeh.
“The commission is expected to start its
work soonest,” he said, adding that the process is being done in consultation
with President Adama Barrow and the cabinet.
Ministry lacks capacity
Meanwhile, the Justice minister has said
his ministry lacks the capacity and resources to prosecute criminal offences
allegedly committed by the government of Yahya Jammeh.
As a result, until the ministry is ready in
terms of capacity and resources “no new criminal cases involving crimes
allegedly committed by the former government will be handled”.
“As at this moment, we are a long way from
that state of trial-readiness,” the Justice minister told reporters.
“The working conditions of the Ministry
must be improved first before we can engage in such highly complex and
The Justice minister said his ministry is
on the verge of creating the post of Special Advisor to the Attorney General,
whose principal responsibility will be to provide policy advice on the justice
sector reforms envisaged by the ministry.
“The post will be funded by the British
government and applications will soon be invited from suitably qualified
Gambians to fill the post,” he said, adding that ministry is also exploring
other ways of shoring up capacity through donor funding of local support
According to Tambedou, the justice ministry
is looking at the possibility of hiring members of the private bar on contract
as a stop gap measure, while capacity within the ministry is being strengthened
in key areas.
Meanwhile, the ministry of Justice has
asked the police to conduct a more thorough investigation into the case of the
NIA 9 - the nine senior officials of the National Intelligence Agency whose
trial is ongoing.
“Criminal investigations must never be
rushed. They require careful planning and strategizing, and will often involve
specialised investigation techniques which may not be readily available in this
Tambedou said if the investigations are not
thoroughly done, there is risk of missing or losing crucial evidence which can
lead to the collapse of an entire case at trial.
“This is why it is preferable that criminal
investigations and evidence collection be guided by the Justice ministry right
from the start.
“Anyone familiar with serious criminal
prosecutions will understand and appreciate the challenge of proving beyond
reasonable doubt every element of a crime charged, and the modes of liability
According to Tambedou, the priority of the
government, at this moment, is to rebuild the justice system and strengthen the
capacity of the ministry of Justice in the process.
The ministry, he continued, must be in
state of full preparedness to handle the demands of the criminal justice system
in all respects.
The ministry of Justice was not consulted
by the ministry of the Interior or the police, before any action was taken in
the case of the NIA 9. It was paramount
that the Justice ministry was informed, in view of the fact that it was going
to be ultimately responsible for the case when it is presented before the
courts, Tambedou added.