Concern groups urge gov't to follow accountability in TRRC recommendations

May 16, 2022, 11:42 AM | Article By: By Pa Modou Cham

As The Gambia government works on finalising the White Paper that would provide the roadmap for the implementation of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) recommendations on 25 May 2022, 16 Gambian and international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have raised some of their hopes and concerns in a joint open letter sent to the minister for Justice, Dawda Jallow. 

The letter revealed that when the TRRC was launched in 2018, Gambians and the international community celebrated the government’s decision to establish a record of the crimes and abuses of the Yahya Jammeh period. 

"The TRRC provided an opportunity for two hundred and twenty-nine victims of Jammeh’s government to be heard, as well as taking testimony from former government insiders such as ministers, police and intelligence chiefs, and members of the “Junglers” hit squad. The TRRC hearings, broadcast on radio and television with interpretation into local languages, had a profound impact on Gambian society." 

Last year, the groups said they welcomed the TRRC recommendations, which called for prosecutions of the crimes committed, as an encouraging first step to ensure that survivors and victims’ families finally get justice and reparations. 

The concerned groups further applauded the government’s decision to release the report in a public ceremony on 24 December 2021 and to make the entire report immediately available online.

"We hope that the process followed by your administration to produce this document is inclusive and involves the victims of abuses during Jammeh’s government, as well as civil society. We welcome the national discussion on the TRRC report this week between your department, some civil society and victim-led organisations as an important and encouraging step to ensure the inclusion of victims in the process." 

"Victims and affected communities should be consulted and should be able to contribute to the decision-making process, the prioritization, and the designing of measures with regards to matters that concern them. In this spirit, we hope you will go beyond the TRRC recommendations and consider the demands of the victims who did not participate in the TRRC hearings, namely regarding sexual and gender-based violence."

The Concern Group continues to urge the minister to ensure that combating impunity is an essential part of the government’s roadmap, adding Victims have a right to receive truth, justice and reparations. 

The letter further factors that the TRRC found that crimes against humanity had been committed and that Yahya Jammeh and 69 other named perpetrators were responsible for 44 specific crimes, including murder, torture, rape and sexual violence, enforced disappearance, and called for their prosecution. 

"The government should thus ensure that enough resources are dedicated so that prompt, thorough and impartial investigations are conducted, and alleged perpetrators are prosecuted in fair trials within a reasonable time and before an independent and impartial tribunal with no recourse to the death penalty. As recommended by the TRRC, legislation must be adopted or modified accordingly to avoid a repetition of the crimes committed and combat impunity."

Transparency in this whole process is primordial, concern groups said, adding they expect that the government would continue to communicate in a transparent, regular and clear way about the evolution of the white paper and publish it by 25 May, so that every Gambian is aware of the government’s plan to provide justice and reparations to the victims, and civil society can assist in the implementation and its monitoring.