Families of victims of the regime of Yahya Jammeh have criticized the decision by the government to release three detained junglars who confessed to taking part in series of killings.
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 Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. Their victims included veteran journalist Deyda Hydara and Gambian-Americans Alhajie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe.
On Monday, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubacarr Tambadou defended his decision to recommend for their release, arguing that was in the best interest of the victims and the country.
“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,” Tambadou told journalists at a press conference in Banjul. “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.”
In reaction, Baba Hydara, a son of Deyda, who the jungulars confessed to have assassinated in 2006, accused Tambadou of setting a bad precedence that could only encourage mob justice. According to him, “it will be insane and out of proportion for the authorities to release people who have confessed to committing heinous crimes, without the consent of the victims’ families.”
“For me the decision to release these jungulars is unacceptable and at the same time shocking. For the Attorney General and the Commission to deciding to release these trained killers in our streets is a slap in the face. I think this is very dangerous not only to us (victims) but also to the people of the country. How can you release these peoples in our streets who have confessed to killing about 30 to 40 people?”
Baba told The Chronicle that releasing the jungulars would mean denying the victims justice as well as having a closure to their cases.
“At the start of the TRRC we were told that certain people would not qualify for amnesty. But now there’s an indication that even jungulars will qualify for amnesty. I’m worried.”
Zainab Lowe’s brother Ebou Lowe was killed by the junglars in the aftermath of the 2006 alleged coup plot led by then army chief Colonel Ndure Cham. For Zainab, it was morally wrong for the Justice Minister to recommend the release of the jungulars who participated in the killing of her brother. She argued that the minister and his team should have exhausted all the legal avenues before taking such decision.
“These Jungulars have admitted to killing up to 40 people and now you want to release them into the society. How do you expect us to reconcile with these people. There cannot be any reconciliation here given this type of situation and to me the pronouncement of the Attorney General is like a slap in our face,” said Zainab.
She called on the minister to reconsider his decision and engage the victims’ families thoroughly.
“Whatever agreement the Justice Ministry or the TRRC has done with these jungulars is not in our name. How could they reach any agreement without consulting with the victims’ families? We did not know anything about this and we did not sign any agreement with anybody about the release of these junglars.”
“The victims center together with some victims have engage the ministry of justice and held meetings with Minister of Justice on this issue and very soon our position will be known to all,” said Sheriff Kijera the head of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations.
The Chronicle has gathered that during the said meeting, the families of the victims objected to the plan to release the jungulars, and have made that position to the Justice Minister.
It’s not clear when exactly the jungulars will be released from detention.