Ba Tambadou Defends Decision to Release Jungulars, Pleads With Victims for Understanding
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubacarr (Ba) Tambadou Monday defended his decision to recommend for the release of three detained jungulars who recently appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission and confessed to taking part in series of killings during the regime of Yahya Jammeh.
Malick Jatta, Omar Jallow, and Amadou Badjie, who have been in military detention for more than two years without trial, became the first jungulars (members of Jammeh’s death squad) to confess to killings at the TRRC. Their victims included veteran journalist Deyda Hydara and Gambian-Americans Alhajie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe.
“Let me clarify from the onset, that the recommendation to release the three men is not an amnesty as some claim. That is totally false. It is only the TRRC that can recommend amnesty in appropriate cases,” Tambadou said at a press conference in Banjul, following public outcry over the decision to release the three men.
“At this point, the objective of the release is to put the three men in a similar situation as those who have appeared at the TRRC and admitted to participating in human rights violations and abuses. The TRRC is not a court of law and one of its primary objectives is to establish the truth in exchange for amnesty and the promotion of healing and national reconciliation.”
Since news broke out that Tambadou was planning to recommend that the men be released from detention, many Gambians have been taken to the social media to criticize his decision. Some of them accused him of being insensitive to the plight of the people killed by the three jungulars. But according to him, the jungulars could not be treated differently despite the heinous nature of their alleged crimes.
“While we all agree that the jungulars are a special category of alleged perpetrators, a reason they have been the only ones in custody all this time, we cannot also afford to treat similarly situated persons differently. We cannot treat one group of confessed perpetrators any different from another group. All those who assist the TRRC to establish the truth shall and should be treated the same way.”
He urged for public understanding on the matter, adding that people cannot pre-empt the work of the TRRC by taking action against anyone at this stage. “So let us suspend judgment and give truth a chance because without the whole truth, we will not achieve our immediate and long term objectives of forgiveness, reconciliation and accountability.”
Tambadou said he could not shy away from making decisions just because they may be unpopular, adding that he is compelled to consider all relevant factors in making decisions.
“On this occasion, I have come to the conclusion that it is in the best interest of our country and the victims to release the three men after their testimonies at the TRRC.”
“Let us just pause for a moment and think about this: without the revelations by these three men, we probably would never have established the facts about which they testified on a first-hand account basis. We would have continued to rely on second hand or even third hand accounts. These three men have so far provided us with the most chilling details about several incidents under former President Jammeh.”
Tambadou indicated that there are still many truths out there that needed to be told to enable the victims find closure, and to negate revisionism by laying bare all the facts for the world to see. He cited those who continue to mock at the victims through their constant denial of the occurrence of these atrocities in The Gambia under former President Jammeh.
“Sometimes this will entail making very difficult decisions. But if I believe strongly that my decision will assist in achieving our truth-telling objective. I will not hesitate to make that decision. It comes with the burden of responsibility that I carry as the person leading our national efforts to find the truth about our past in order to prevent a recurrence in the future.”
“To the victims and their families in particular, I know that this may be extremely difficult for you as I am asking you to swallow a bitter pill. But I assure you, like I have done on many previous occasions, that the decision to release these three men is also in your long term interests. I have consistently acted in your best interests and there is no reason to doubt my continued commitment to your cause,” Tambadou said.