Gambia debates post-Jammeh justice

President Barrow promised truth and reconciliation commission but divisions remain over transitional justice plan

Gambia debates post-Jammeh justice

World Bulletin / News Desk

 After a brutal 22-year dictatorship during which a number of people were reportedly killed, tortured or jailed, Gambians are debating how the government should treat the past.

After the fall of strongman Yahya Jammeh in December 2016, his successor Adama Barrow promised to establish truth and reconciliation commission, but divisions over his proposed transitional justice plan could not be more apparent.  

Ismaila Ceesay, a Gambia political analyst and senior lecturer at the University of the Gambia, says the small nation does not need a truth and reconciliation commission.

  “It was one man [Jammeh] using the state apparatus to commit terror against Gambians. Do we reconcile with those people who commit terror against Gambians? No, those people should face justice," Ceesay tells Anadolu Agency.  

“In South Africa when they said reconciliation, it meant the whites were to reconcile with the blacks, but in Gambia there was no such division along ethnic, racial or ideological lines. So you cannot ask Gambians to reconcile with those few Jammeh henchmen who have committed those serious crimes,” he adds.

Commission or no commission, authorities have gone after some who worked for Yahya Jammeh.

Over two dozen former security officials who worked under Jammeh face trials for murder and other crimes. 

 

A judge at Banjul Magistrate court has also issued an arrest warrant for over a dozen of Jammeh's senior security officials, including his longest serving interior minister, Ousman Sonko.

Authorities have also frozen Jammeh’s assets last week after securing a court order.

Ceesay says Gambia should create a special court that will prosecute crimes committed under Jammeh to prevent inundating local courts with cases.  

Meanwhile, Gambian officials have launched an international conference which ends Friday in order to create a proper model of transitional justice which suits the country’s realities.

However, the country’s justice minister Bubacarr Tambadou told journalists early this week that some would be given amnesty for them to be “encouraged to tell the truth”.

But Maila Touray, the chairman of Jammeh’s victims committee, says they are ready to take legal actions in the form of civil suits if victims come to find the government's attempts at delivering justice inadequate.

“It is our position that it is the victims who decide who gets amnesty and not the government. Even if you are to grant amnesty to some people who might have committed some minor crimes for them to appear before a commission, it is their victims who should decide that,” Touray tells Anadolu Agency.  

Sabrina Mahtani, the Amnesty International focal person for Gambia and Sierra Leone, who is currently on a visit to the small nation, says the government should not “tolerate amnesty for major crimes such as crimes against humanity, genocide and torture”.

“The transitional justice has to be multifaceted. People who committed certain crimes ought to be punished and at the same time there should be reconciliation,” Sabrina tells Anadolu Agency.

A Gambian lawmaker who was arrested and tortured in March 2006, Madi Ceesay, says lasting peace in Gambia would require justice for the past crimes.

Ceesay was the owner of a Gambian newspaper, Daily News, which was arbitrarily closed down by Jammeh in 2012.  

“If there is a truth and reconciliation commission and I am invited and people who tortured me say ‘sorry’, I will forgive them but without that I am still an angry man. When I see them [security officials reportedly involved in his torture] I feel very bad,” Ceesay tells Anadolu Agency.

Last Mod: 27 Mayıs 2017, 10:11
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