Crimes Perpetrators Under Jammeh “Must Be Brought To Justice”, U.N
In its just-ended Forty-eighth session from 13 September to 1 October 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says it supports the prosecution of crimes committed under Yahya Jammeh’s watch. It also supports the opening of a new international inquiry into the 2005 massacre of more than 50 West African migrants.
In its report, the UN body saluted the TRRC for two years of public sessions. But the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances stresses that “The process must go beyond truth-telling and perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
“There is a high expectation that the findings of the TRRC will lead to intensified criminal justice processes. In this regard, the Working Group reiterates its previous recommendation for investigations, prosecutions, and judicial proceedings to be carried out in accordance with the principle of due diligence, taking into account the complexity of the crime of enforced disappearance; the context in which these disappearances occurred and the patterns that explain why the events occurred; and ensure that there are no omissions in the gathering of evidence or the development of lines of investigation.”
The UN body specifically advised that in pursuing its efforts to ensure access to justice and reparations for victims of the Jammeh administration, The Gambia should consider the establishment of specialized hybrid courts to try those allegedly responsible for these violations.
“The Working Group notes information concerning the still ongoing prosecution of nine top officials of the National Intelligence Agency (now State Intelligence Services) for the death of Solo Sandeng, an opposition activist killed while in state custody in 2016. The Working Group further notes the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator in the case of the murder of the former Finance Minister in 1995. Finally, the Working Group reiterates the need to ensure that all enforced disappearances are duly investigated and prosecuted without delays.
It also calls on the prosecution and judicial authorities to provide space for the victims’ relatives to be fully aware of the proceedings and take an active role thereon. Regular updates and transparent information should be given to relatives along with appropriate legal counseling.“
This WGEID statement follows a declaration by the International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has also said that “justice must happen” for Jammeh-era crimes.
“From the International Criminal Court to the United Nations, the world is speaking with one voice: there must – and there will – be justice for the crimes committed during Yahya Jammeh’s government,” said Fatoumatta Sandeng, spokesperson for the #Jammeh2Justice campaign, and daughter of the opposition leader Solo Sandeng, who was killed in custody in 2016. “Amnesty and impunity are simply not options.“
These recommendations are made public at a crucial moment when the TRRC’s final report is expected to be issued after several delays. The political situation in The Gambia has raised concerns that the Commission’s calls for justice could be swept under the rug.
According to observers, the follow-up report presented during the recently-concluded session of the Human Rights Council is an essential sign of support from the international community for accountability in The Gambia. In addition, the report underlines the importance of the work of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), and the need to prosecute those responsible for the crimes committed under Jammeh.
On the 2005 massacre of more than 50 West African migrants, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says, “Given the confirmation of the involvement of the Gambian state in the killings and enforced disappearances of West African Migrants in July 2005” at the TRRC hearings. The WGEID supports the call “for the establishment of an international investigative team on the matter.”
“We welcome the UN’s call for the establishment of an international investigative team on the disappeared migrants,” said Emeline Escafit, legal advisor for TRIAL International. A coalition of 11 human rights organizations had called for such a new investigation in July 2020.
The UN Group report is an additional voice in the chorus of concern about accountability for serious crimes in The Gambia. With President Adama Barrow’s new political love story with dictator Yahya Jammeh, the victims and the International community now endeavor to ensure that the TRRC work ends with access to justice and reparations for the victims of past abuses un Yahya Jammeh’s watch.
The UN recommendations to duly investigate and prosecute all cases of enforced disappearances is a positive sign, said 17 groups have been campaigning for justice in The Gambia.
The 17 groups issuing the call are Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA), African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED), Amnesty International – Ghana, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-GHANA), Human Rights Advocacy Center, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), POS Foundation, Right 2 Know – Gambia, Solo Sandeng Foundation, The Toufah Foundation, TRIAL International, Women’s Association for Victims’ Empowerment (WAVE).