Gambian government ready to prosecute former dictator Jammeh

The Gambians government he said Wednesday that he was willing to prosecute former dictator Yahya Jammeh for a “myriad of crimes” committed by the regime during his more than 20 years of rule.

The Ministry of Justice said in a statement that it accepted all but two of the 265 recommendations made by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), “especially the prosecution of former President Yahya Jammeh, for a myriad of crimes committed between 1994 and 2017 “.

The former dictator lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea, which has no extradition treaty with the Gambia.

The ministry also accepted recommendations for prosecuting alleged perpetrators appointed by the truth commission, including senior officials.

Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said at a press conference that he will create a special prosecutor’s office and a special court within The Gambia with the ability to hold sittings in other jurisdictions.

“Impunity is a kind of incentive that we are not prepared to serve the perpetrators. Those who intend to commit serious human rights violations must have no doubt that one day society will hold them accountable for their actions,” Jallow said.

“Their determination to commit these atrocities cannot be stronger than our collective will as a society to hold them accountable.”

The truth commission found that 240 to 250 people, including AFP reporter Deyda Hydara, were killed by the state during the eccentric former leader’s rule. Established in 2017, it heard chilling testimonies from nearly 400 people before wrapping up in May 2021.

Human rights activists accuse Jammeh, who turned 57 on Wednesday, of committing a litany of crimes, from using death squads to rape of a beauty queen and sponsoring a witch hunt.

The former president was also accused of administering bogus HIV “treatment” programs and the massacre of some 50 African migrants in 2005.

In a report released in November after two postponements, the commission recommended prosecuting the former president and 69 other alleged perpetrators. The government had until Wednesday to respond.

Jammeh was forced into exile in early 2017 after his shocking electoral defeat to current President Adama Barrow and a six-week crisis that led to military intervention by other West African states.

Barrow, re-elected in December, formed a political alliance with Jammeh’s former party last year.

Although the former dictator himself rejected the deal, Barrow then appointed two well-known supporters of Jammeh as speakers and vice-presidents of parliament.

– ‘Important and significant step forward’ –

For Fatoumatta Sandeng, spokesperson for Jammeh2Justice campaign, a coalition of victim groups, Wednesday’s white paper is just the next step in a long healing process.

Her father, Ebrima Solo Sandeng, a member of the opposition United Democratic Party, was tortured and killed by the security services in 2016.

“Truth and reconciliation commissions have been launched in many countries,” he said, adding that their recommendations are often ignored.

“The most important job right now is making sure recommendations are respected, implemented and not just sidelined like other committees.”

Reed Brody, an International Commission of Jurists lawyer working with Jammeh’s victims, called the ministry’s response to the Truth Commission “an important and significant step forward.”

“Now the government will have to demonstrate with concrete action to an increasingly skeptical public that it actually has the determination to bring the culprits to the register,” he said.

“Laws have yet to be enacted, a court has to be set up, cases have to be prepared and Yahya Jammeh has to be arrested.”

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