Victims Centre urges gov’t to reject amnesty to Sanna Sabally

Mar 21, 2022, 12:27 PM | Article By: Adama Tine

Victims of The Gambia Centre for Victims and Human Rights Violations (Victims' Center) have urged the government to reject the amnesty granted to former vice chairman of the 1994 Junta Government, Sanna Sabally, by TRRC.

During a press conference held at its office over the weekend, victims urged the government to disregard that recommendation. 

The TRRC and its Amnesty Committee reportedly submitted a report to the Ministry of Justice last week in which it granted Mr. Sabally, a former army lieutenant amnesty on the grounds that he had been truthful during his testimony before the TRRC in 2019, and he himself had been a victim of the Jammeh government

According to victims, Mr. Sabally’s crime of killing 11 soldiers is tantamount to crime against humanity, ppitching his amnesty in contrast with the TRRC Act.

 "Families of victims of November 11th, 1994, together with other victims of crimes against humanity during the regime of Yahya Jammeh and a coalition of Gambian organisations condemn in the strongest possible terms the approval of an amnesty for former AFPRC Vice-Chairman Sanna Sabally by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Amnesty Committee and Commissioners and urges the Gambia Government, through the Minister of Justice, to disregard this recommendation," says Muhammed Sandeng, who read the statement on behalf of the victims."

"In its final report, which was released on December 24th, 2021, the TRRC found Sanna Sabally, Edward Singhateh, Yankuba Touray and Yahya Jammeh as perpetrators bearing the greatest responsibility for the November 11th, 1994 incident," he said. "They were found responsible for the torture, assault, beatings, and extrajudicial killings of the 11 GNA soldiers and the torture, beatings, arbitrary and unlawful detention of five private soldiers. Sanna Sabally was also found responsible for subjecting numerous people to human rights violations."

"The announcement of amnesty comes as a shock to the victims given that according to Section 19 (3) of the TRRC Act, Sanna Sabally SHOULD NOT qualify for amnesty because the crimes he committed form part of crimes against humanity. This therefore renders the “approval” illegal and thus should not be acted on by the government."

"Victims also wish to express their outrage and displeasure at the matter in which they received the information, which was through the media (yet again). There was no prior consultation with families of direct victims who have been forced to live through the trauma of Sanna Sabally and co.’s brutal act all these years."

Isatou Marong, widow of late Sergeant Basirou Camara, said she was shocked about the amnesty given to Mr. Sabally.

"Before you release a perpetrator, you should talk to the victims first. We have been suffering for so long from Jammeh’s times and things looks even worse now than before," she said. "If a donkey destroys your vegetables, you don't kill the donkey but warn the owner. All victims in this country are suffering, but because Barrow does not suffer similar fate, he is acting like this." 

"I must say that I personally I’m disappointed; and for me this is shameful considering the purpose of the TRRC," said Sira Ndow, the ANEKED country director. According to her, Sanna did not to apologise to his victims during his TRRC testimony and therefore he does not deserve amnesty. 

According to the victims’ statement, on 24 April 2019, Sanna Sabally appeared before the TRRC and confessed to killing at least 11 Gambia National Army (GNA) soldiers accused of plotting to overthrow the AFPRC regime.

The statement indciated that Sanna Sabally said he ordered for the bodies to be taken and buried at Yundum Barracks and acknowledged that they were not given the proper burial saying, “they were not entitled to decent treatment as they were enemies and enemies cannot be treated properly.”

Sheriff Muhammed Kijera, chairman of the Victims’ Centre for Human Rights, commenting on the proclaimed amnesty granted to Sanna Sabally, says “it is quite disappointing after all that have been heard from Sanna Sabally’s testimony at the TRRC when he personally confessed to the killing of eleven innocent soldiers that were captured and detained in their custody.

“I don’t see any justification of Sanna taking the command responsibility to order for their killing and for personally acknowledging the fact that he took part in the shooting.”

As part of the TRRC Act, Kijera said, “crimes that equate to crimes against humanity cannot be granted amnesty so I don’t know how they came to that conclusion of granting Sanna Sabally amnesty.”

“During his testimony, Sanna had never been remorseful, he had throughout been referring to the murdered soldiers as enemies and he categorically stated that when you cut the head of the snake, the body is useless,” he opined.

Abdou Aziz Barrow, son of one of the November 11th victim, Lieutenant Basirou Barrow said: “I grew up without my father, without his love and companionship which was very difficult for me and my family.”

Aziz added that “a day doesn’t go by without being traumatised by the events and mannerism in which my father and his companions were gruesomely killed on day of November 11th. My father’s death was sanctioned by a coward and carried out by an unrepentant, remorseless and degenerate individual. My family deserves justice and so do all the families affected by Sanna Sabally and his henchmen.”

According to Mbaya Demba, widow of Lieutenant Gibril Saye, another victim, “Sanna Sabally confessed to killing our husbands, so if they say they are going to set him free, we may not have the power to stop it but we are not happy about it.”

She continued that “We have not forgiven him and cannot forgive him so therefore, setting him free is going to be traumatising and painful for us. The entire family is suffering from a pain that cannot be measured.”

The Victims’ Centre further said in their statement: “We would like to remind the commission that victims are not incidental but bona fide stakeholders with a key role to play and the right to participate in the transitional justice process, including any amnesty process.”

“We demand that Sanna Sabally’s amnesty approval is disregarded and warn the government that we would fight against this and other decisions which deny us our right to justice and a say in the transitional justice process in the country.”

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