‘Gambia Government Failed to investigate Disappearances, Refused Disclosure of Information to Families’

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Truth Commission Reports

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in its Investigative Report and Recommendations to the Government, disclosed that between July 1994 to January 2017, many Gambians and non-Gambians disappeared without any explanations.

According to the Truth Commission, the former regime under the leadership of former President Yahya Jammeh, failed to investigate the disappearances of persons and refused to disclose any information to their families.

Late Daba Marena

Below we reproduce the Commission’s Report and Government’s Position on the report as stated in the ‘White Paper’ that was presented to journalists, the general public and members of the Diplomatic community, regarding one of the most pathetic topics investigated by the Commission, showing how rampant disappearances were under the former dictatorship, under Theme 13: Enforced Disappearances.

Background:

  • Between July 1994 to January 2017, many Gambians and non-Gambians disappeared without any explanation or were extra-judicially killed. The Government of The Gambia failed to investigate the disappearances and refused to disclose any information to the families of those who disappeared.
  • The International Convention for the protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance defined “Enforced Disappearance” as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State; followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.
  • Officials from the office of the Inspector General of Police, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Military, the Prisons and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arrested and detained individuals which led to their disappearance. They were made to disappear in secret ways which prevented their family members of knowing of their fate and whereabouts.
  • Following the 11th of November 1994 alleged attempted coup, the Junta members killed several people including Lieutenant Basiru Barrow, Sergeant Fafa Nyang, Lieutenant Abdoulie Dot Faal, Lieutenant Bakary Manneh (Nyancho), Lieutenant Gibril Saye, 2nd Lieutenant Momodou Lamin Darboe, Cadet Officer Amadou Sillah and many others. The families of those killed were not informed of their burials and had no access to the dead bodies.
  • The Commission received evidence that before their execution the arrested soldiers were stripped naked, tortured, humiliated and executed in various locations and, then their bodies disposed in mass graves at Yundum Barracks in total violation of the law.
  • Following their executions, the Government of The Gambia failed to take any steps to establish the nature, causes and magnitude of the incident. No individuals were arrested or prosecuted for their actions.
  • On the 20th of January, 2000 following reports of another attempted coup, Lieutenant Almamo Manneh was shot and killed by soldiers. The Commission held that he was set up by Ousman Sonko who called him under false pretences and was killed by Musa Jammeh.
  • Over the course of Jammeh’s regime, several other disappearances took place. The said disappearances include that of Dawda Nyassi, Ceesay Bujiling Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe, Ndongo Mboob, Modou Lamin Kujabi (Jasaja), Tumani Jallow and Abdoulie Gaye, Lamin Tunkara and the West Africa Migrants. The Commission received evidence that 9 Nigerians were part of the West African migrants however their fate was not established.
  • Haruna Jammeh was detained for several months at the National Intelligence Agency and then killed in Kanilai where his body was dumped in a well where the bodies of the Ghanaians migrants were dumped.
  • Daba Marena, Ebou Lowe, Alieu Ceesay, Alpha Bah, Manlafi Corr, Masireh Jammeh and Julia were arrested following suspicion that they were plotting a coup. They were all killed and their bodies dumped in a well. On the 6th of April 2006, the Government of The Gambia issued a press release stating that the said persons whilst been transported to Janjanbureh Prison were involved in a car accident during which the men escaped.
  • The Commission visited several areas and held that the former President Jammeh had used his personal properties as burial places for his victims. Most of the burials of the disappeared persons during the Jammeh regime were done at Military Barracks, state-protected areas, at former President Jammeh’s farms or near the border with neighbouring Senegal. However, it was noted that the areas were difficult to identify even by those who did the operation. It was also found that the thickness of the forest and vegetation cover made the identification of the specific areas difficult.
Late Chief Ebrima Manneh    
  • The Commission also found evidence that the Junglers were operating under the orders of the former President Jammeh who used enforced disappearance to neutralize his critics and perceived enemies.
  • The Ghanaian Foreign Minister at that time did an investigation of the killings of the West African Migrants and managed to secure the release of three Ghanaians. The Gambian government also created a panel to investigate the 8 dead bodies found in Brufut.
  • A joint investigation was conducted by the UN- ECOWAS Mission and a task force was created to help the UN- ECOWAS Mission. The Commission held that there is a need to further investigate the fate and whereabouts of Bubai Sanyang, Kanyi Ba Kanyi, Momodou Lamin Nyassi and Chief Ebrima Manneh which cases they held to be unresolved cases.
  • The Commission found that the former President Jammeh caused the enforced disappearance of all those who were detained tortured and/or killed by the Junglers.
  • The Commission received evidence suggesting that Yahya Jammeh had disappeared babies. However, the Commission was unable to fully investigate these allegations to establish the veracity of these claims. The Commission noted that there is a lack of knowledge amongst the security forces and those working in the justice sector about the phenomenon of enforced disappearances and recognizing how it may be used by the state to silence critics and dissenters.

Recommendations from the TRRC and the position of the Government

  • The Commission, having considered the totality of the evidence, made the following recommendations
  • Prosecute           Yayha        Jammeh          and       the       Junglers           for      the       unlawful disappearances and killing of the victims.
Late Kanyi-Ba Kanyi
  • The government accepts the recommendation of the Commission concerning the prosecution of Former President Jammeh and Junglers for the unlawful disappearances and killings. The Government notes that Enforced Disappearance is not a distinct criminal offence under our laws and will work towards its criminalisation. The Government further notes that Yahya Jammeh and some of the Jugulars can be tried for crimes against humanity under the special judicial framework to be set up for prosecution of offences emanating from the Commission’s Report.
  • Set up a task force to inquire and investigate the fate and whereabouts of persons who remain missing and the whereabouts of those who have been found to be killed but their whereabouts still remain unknown and other persons who are missing but have not been reported to the Commission.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission on the need to set up a task force to inquire and investigate the fate and whereabouts of the missing persons to ensure the families and loved ones of the victims get the much-desired closure they deserve. As an immediate step, the Government will work towards identifying and preserving suspected burial sites. To ensure adequate resources and expertise are in place, the Government will seek to collaborate with and galvanise support from victim countries such as Ghana and Senegal, development partners and institutions such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for the proper investigations of missing persons whose fates are unknown and search of burial sites, identification, and excavation of the said missing persons determined to have been killed. The Government also takes note of the recommendation from the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances including:
  • Ensuring the preservation of the sites and the protection of the chain of custody of the samples taken, reinforcing the forensic

capacity of the investigators, the prosecutors and the judiciary and ensuring that they have adequate resources.

  • Adopting a comprehensive strategy and plan for the search for and the identification, excavation and proper investigation of existing burial sites and the identification of new ones.
  • Adopt legislation which makes provision for the issuance of “Certificates of Absence” to the families of victims of enforced disappearance.
  • Developing a gender-sensitive policy and action plan to provide support and rehabilitation for families of forcibly disappeared persons, including specific measures to support families of disappeared persons whose death is confirmed through the truth-seeking processes.
  • To provide training to security and justice sector personnel on the phenomenon of and the illegality of enforced disappearance.
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission and seeks to work closely with the National Human Rights Commission, CSO’s such as ANEKED and other development partners to provide training to the justice and security personnel on the illegality of enforced disappearances. The Government will intensify its efforts through the Ministry of Justice to accelerate the domestication of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance ratified in 2018 to ensure a national legal framework is in place to protect against enforced disappearances.
  • The establishment of a task force comprising of seasoned investigators, medical personnel, social welfare officers and forensic experts and wildlife officers to investigate allegations of
  • Missing babies (the identities of these babies, circumstances of their disappearance and where they disappeared to and by whom)
  • The disposal of the bodies and whereabouts.
  • To investigate the crocodile ponds in Kanilai in order to determine whether babies and other human remains were disposed or dumped there
  • The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission concerning the need to set up a task force to ascertain the identity of the missing babies and investigate their fate and whereabouts. The Government will work closely with development partners and institutions such as the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) to ensure adequate resources and expertise are available for the search and identification of burial sites including the crocodile pond in Kanilai, and excavation of the said missing babies alleged to have been killed. The Government will work towards putting in place the necessary cooperation frameworks with the Government of Senegal with regards to those burial sites that are suspected to be located across the southern border in Senegalese territory.
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