By: Kebba AF Touray & Sariba Manneh
The National Assembly, on 1st November, passed a bill to provide reparations of victims.
The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Dawda Jallow, while presenting the Bill, titled Victims Reparations Bill 2023, told lawmakers that the Bill seeks to establish a Reparations Commission whose responsibility is to review reparation paid out by the TRRC and make necessary adjustments, receive, evaluate, process and make a determination as to new victims not identified by the TRRC.
He said “The Bill seeks to create and maintain an up-to-date database of victims, develop and publish guidelines and procedures for the granting of reparations. The Bill also seeks to establish a victims’ fund which shall consist of, among other sources, monies generated from some of the proceeds of sales of ex-President Jammeh’s properties.
He added that it also seeks to create a point system that will be used by the Commissioners to determine the reparations payable to victims.
Subsequently, the debate on the Bill ensued which availed the lawmakers to weigh in their inputs and views on the Bill.
Hon. Suwaibou Touray, Member for Wuli East Constituency, said the time is apt, adding that it is seeking to redress long standing human rights violations of people who actually require remedies.
He said: “I believe many people have their rights violated at some point and they have no way of seeking redress”
The veteran politician further outlined that the Bill is an opportunity for those people to come before the agency to seek redress, adding that many were affected during the Second Republic but that some may be interested in restitution instead of monetary compensation.
He added that it is apt that there is a domestic law to make a provision to prohibit the violations done by state agents, and that the Commission should continue training security and judicial officers as they have a critical role in ensuring that these violations do not continue.
Member for Banjul South, Hon. Fatoumatta Njai, said “I support the Bill, but not the way it is presented to us. We were voted through tough elections to come and defend, and protect their rights in the country as citizens of the country. The reason that provision is given in the Constitution for the President to bring this Bill as a matter of urgency has been abused because I don’t see this as matter of urgency.”
She admitted that the Bill is of benefit to the community, but to what extent, and they need to look into the provision to ensure that it is taken through the right stage and due processes.
Member for Kantora and Majority Leader, Hon. Billay G Tunkara, explained that the change of government happened in 2016 and the TRRC was set up to probe heinous crimes against humanity during the Jammeh regime,
He said down the line, there is the need to give compensation to the victims and to ensure healing as a nation, saying “Putting the Bill before the next year’s budget session will ensure adequate resources and to have support from partners to make sure that the victims are given the attention they deserve.”
He added that seven years down the line, it is apt and timely to bring the Bill to ensure that the victims are compensated.
Honourable Sanna Jawara, Member for Lower Saloum, said the Bill is long overdue, but stressed that the need for the mover to explain to them the time frame of the Commission and the monies that will be utilized to ensure compensation for the victims.
He also asked the Minister to state the mechanisms in place that will be utilized to account for the monies that will be generated to provide compensation; adding that once the Commission starts, grants and donations will come and there is the need for transparency and accountability.
He also called for inclusion of all the victims and not to be limited to only those who appeared before the TRRC, stating there are still some victims that did not appear before the TRRC and they deserve to be included.
Hon. Amadou Camara, Member for Nianija, said that the country has been yearning for compensation and reparation for the victims, and now that the Bill has been brought up it is a welcomed move, in the efforts to provide the compensation and reparations to the victims.
Hon. Kemo Gassama, Member for Lower Baddibu, said that though he welcomes and supports the Bill, he doesn’t understand the reason for bringing the Bill under Certificate of Emergency, adding that the assembly will commence its ordinary session in less than two-weeks time to come.
Serrekunda West Lawmaker, Hon. Madi Ceesay, said “I am not against the Bill. What I am against is the urgency attached to it. We know victims have suffered and they will continue to suffer. We are very much in support of the Bill, but we want justice to be done to the Bill.”
If the Bill had come under normal circumstances, he said it will avail them chance to have interface with larger communities than victims themselves, adding that there are both direct and indirect victims.
Member for Sami, Hon. Alfusainey Ceesay reiterated that there was no need to bring the Bill under Certificate of Urgency, but that there is no lawmaker who is against the Bill, adding that it amounts to excluding the victims in the Bill that seek to secure a law for them.
When it is brought under normal circumstances, he said, the victims and other stakeholders will have opportunity to have their inputs incorporated in the Bill.
Member for Foni Jarrol Constituency, Hon. Kebba T Sanneh, was one of the few who was critical of the Bill. He said that there is need for them to know who the victims are.
The Bill, he said, needs to go through committee stages so that they can really screen the Bill to know who the victims are.
The National Assembly Member for Foni Kansala, Almameh Gibba, has criticized the Bill, stating that it is not progressive and is instead a witch-hunt as it mentions Yahya Jammeh, the former president, four times.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow, tabled the 2023 Victims Reparations Bill, as per the recommendations from the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). The Bill was passed by the members.
The Victim Reparations Bill, 2023, is the first of several bills the government submitted to the parliament in this extraordinary session.
Next to be tabled was the TRRC Bill by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Dawda Jallow.