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Prominent Activist Outraged by Plan to Release Jungulars, says It’s a Big Blow to TRRC

The West Africa Director of London-based rights group Article 19 warned that it will be a big blow to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) if the authorities go ahead with their plans to release three detained jungulars (ex-president Yahya Jammeh’s hitmen).

Malick Jatta, Omar Jallow and Amadou Badjie, who have been in military detention for more than two years without trial, became the first jungulars to confess to killings at the TRRC. Abubacarr Tambadou, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice told journalists Monday that he recommended for the release of the three men as a result of their confessions.

Justice Minister Tambadou

But in an interview with The Chronicle, Article 19’s Fatou Jagne-Senghore criticized Tambadou’s pronouncement.

“I believe for many reasons that it is too soon and a big decision that cannot be taken by an individual or one department of government. This is a decision that can only be taken after series of national consultation with all the stakeholders, including the TRRC commissioners and the victims before reaching any conclusive decision to release these jungulars,” she said. “This is a national matter and for any case, all stakeholders must be engaged adequately before any decision to release these jungulars can be reached.”

Mrs. Jagne-Senghor suggested that Tambadou should have used other means that would allow others to talk instead of using the three jungulars as an incentive to get other witnesses to give information at the TRRC. According to her, many truth commissions across the world have failed because of broken promises and that Gambia must be ready to learn from these lessons in order to get a very successful truth commission.

Fatou Jagne Senghor

“What we are seeing today is not satisfactory. The TRRC started very well and now I think there is a big blow with the proposed release of these jungulars on the basis that it will encourage others to tell the truth before the commission. Truth must be told and perpetrators willing to tell the truth must be encouraged to tell the truth. But this must not deter the proceedings of the normal court processes that are ongoing and nobody should give Gambians the impression that nobody will be prosecuted after testifying at the truth commission.”

Mrs. Jagne-Senghor said “it will be totally unacceptable to give the false impression that anyone who testifies before the commission will be set free.” She said those who committed horrendous crimes must be sent through normal courts processes in ensuring that justice is seen to be done.

“Those who committed heinous crimes must be ready to take full responsibilities of their actions so that we can take corrective measures and move on to another base because if this does not happen, our kids will think that it’s normal to harm other people, it’s normal to be cowards and it’s normal not to protect your neighbors because you are in a system that encourages selfishness.

According to her, Gambians have fought so hard to uproot a dictator and must therefore be ready to uproot all forms of impunity.

Jungulars Jallow, Badjie and Jatta

The multiple award-winning rights activist suggested “a genuine national dialogue that is not based on lip service where few people decide for others, but on collective decisions on some of the issues for the sake of transparency.” She said the argument presented by the Attorney General for the decision to release the jungulars was not a strong argument in terms of both legality and morality.

“Taking this hasty decision unilaterally is not acceptable, looking into the cases of Deyda Hydara, Koro Ceesay and others.

“Reconciliation is premises on telling the truth and those who committed human rights violations must tell the truth if genuine reconciliation is to be attained.”

Mrs. Jagne-Senghor argued that the “reconciliation process cannot be a piecemeal where people will be released here and there without a conversation, and this must be a national conversation so that the country can finish its truth and reconciliation process on a strong footing.”

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