By: Kebba AF Touray
Neneh MC Cham, a Human Rights Lawyer, has expressed belief that there will be prosecutions of persons who bear the greatest responsibilities for the crimes and violations that have occurred during the past regime.
Lawyer Cham made this assertion while delivering on the topic, the importance of accountability in the Gambia, during the conference entitled ‘from truth to justice the implementation of TRRC recommendations on prosecutions’.
She said that the people who live in the country (especially victims) cannot understand why it is taking so long, but expressed that they are hopeful that after the commission’s report, there will be justice.
“The report will contain positive recommendations and we believe and rightly sure that there will be prosecutions of persons who bear the greatest responsibilities for these crimes and violations that have occurred”, she asserted.
She explained that according to the UN Office of the Commission of Human Rights, accountability consists of three elements namely, responsibility (of the state) to prosecute and bring accused people to account, if convicted as responsible for having been committed a crime), answerability (accused person answer to the charges, allegations and accusations of having been committed a crime), and enforceability (courts enforce any judge that it may give).
“For 22 years we have had a regime that been very brutal and allegedly responsible of lot of alleged crimes against its own people, such as murder, enforced disappearances, rape and other violations of rights. Gambian (particularly victims) have been left traumatized and wanting justice and are struggling to understand the process,” she said.
This, she said, is based on the fact that about 300 witnesses and victims as well as alleged perpetrators that confessed to the most heinous crimes coming from the testimonies before the TRRC.
She said that victims are going through hell, suffering pains and they want justice, and as such, there is great need for justice and accountability which helps victims to move on, and this is one reason why the victims want accountability.
Fatou Jagne Senghore, Executive Director, Article 19 West Africa, said that the Gambians have been able to defeat a dictator through a peaceful mean through unity with support from diverse people, but challenged that such unity should not be taken for granted.
She said that due to the climate of fear that prevailed during the past administration, coupled with the closeness of the citizens toward each other, the citizens were suspicious of each other and has barred friends and the citizens from having conversation (on the phone) with each other.
“We need to have more of this forums, speak out so that together we heal the wounds of the nation and together, realize that what happened during the former reign was not normal and we can realize the dream of Never Again slogan in the country,” she said.
She stated that after 22 years of negation of all fundamental human rights, the catalog of violations unearthed during the TRRC sittings, it is crucial to identify means to ensure that the violations that happened in the former regime remain in the archives, for future generations to learn from.
“The coalition 2016 came about under the agenda of reconciliation. So the TRRC was part of the agenda and election campaign. What the post Jammeh government did was a kind of social demand and commitment to ensuring that we will have openness and accountability”, she said.
She reiterated that the country witnessed a lot of impunity during the past Jammeh reign, and in the post Jammeh regime, the citizens hope that the human rights violations will be addressed, but until today, some reports remain in the drawers.
“These are not good signs for the progress in addressing the violation trajectory. These are processes that have been documented and we need to continue to push forward. As far as accountability is concerned it is crucial to have a right to know the truth,” Madam Jagne added.
She also said that it is also important to have proper accountability mechanisms through a judicial body to ensure that the full picture is known. In lieu of the fact it will take long and challengingly difficult, the country have seen lot of denial, adding that some people did not speak the truth when they testified.
“Therefore, it is imperative to have more investigation and hearings through courts and other bodies, to really get to the full picture and to ensure that all the people who are responsible are prosecuted,” she said.