This year yet again marks another anniversary when 14 Gambian children including a Red Cross volunteer where gunned to death by the security forces of the Republic of the Gambia. For 18 years, scores of survivors of this massacre continue to live with pain, poverty and deprivation without any support from the Gambia Government. In light of this massacre, the Gambian civil society under the auspices of TANGO and the April 10 and 11 Foundation will hold a national press conference on Wednesday 11 April 2018 at TANGO head office in Fajara at 10am to demand justice once and for all under the theme, ‘April 10 and 11: 18 Years Later, Victims Still Cry for Justice!’.
We are appalled that after 18 years today, the recommendations of the April 10 and 11 Commission of Inquiry of August 2000 were not implemented. Rather in 2001, the Gambia Government passed an Indemnity Act to divest the Government and any of its agents of any liability for their decisions and actions they may have taken in the wake of the April 10 and 11 Massacre. Furthermore, even though the Indemnity Act states in Article 4 that the President may authorize the granting of compensation to victims based on the recommendations of the Claims Commission which was to be set up under Article 5, yet no such commission was set up neither were any befitting compensations offered to victims.
The April 10 and 11 Commission of Inquiry Report had clearly and directly identified the public and security officers who bear the greatest responsibility for the massacre. The Report unequivocally recommended that those responsible must be either disciplined or prosecuted. None of these recommendations were carried out because the Gambia Government had indemnified their actions in 2001.
In light of the foregoing, TANGO and the April 10 and 11 Memorial Foundation hereby makes the following demands bearing in mind that in 2017 a 13-point Petition was submitted to the Minster of Justice for which there has been no response from the Government yet. In addition to that Petition we demand that:
- The President of the Republic of the Gambia Mr. Adama Barrow to place before the National Assembly a bill to repeal the Indemnity Act 2001 by the next legislative session of the National Assembly in 2018.
- The Gambia Government to formally adopt the April 10 and 11 Commission of Inquiry Report 2000;
- The April 10 and 11 Commission of Inquiry Report to be fully implemented within one year from today;
- The Gambia Government to set up a claims and compensation commission to determine the conditions of victims in order to ensure adequate compensation;
- The Gambia Government to solemnly recognise April 10 and 11 as National Days of Mourning during which prayers and minute’s silence will be observed in all schools in the Gambia;
- The Gambia Government to re-open investigations in order to prosecute those responsible for the murder of Ebrima Barry by fire service officers in Brikama and the rape of a schoolgirl by PIU officers at the Independence Stadium as the precursors to the April 10 and 11 massacre;
- The Gambia Government to set up a monument as a memorial to the victims of the massacre and also serve as a reminder to the general public that never again shall we allow or condone such violations and atrocities in the Gambia;
- The National Assembly to exercise it oversight powers to hold the Gambia Government to account by ensuring that the recommendations made by the Gambian Civil Society here are fully and urgently implemented.
TANGO and the April 10 and 11 Memorial Foundation hereby urges the Gambia Government to urgently and diligently pursue justice for the victims by fully implementing these recommendations. The Gambia Government bears constitutional, legal and political obligation to protect the rights and dignity of all Gambians. The destruction of human life cannot be indemnified or pardoned without recourse to due process. As a party to international treaties, the Gambia bears international obligations to uphold jus cogens or peremptory norms in respect of international crimes.
In the same vein, we wish to call on all Gambians to stand up to demand justice for victims of the April 10 and 11 Massacre within the wider struggle for the strengthening of democracy and good governance in the Gambia. We wish to remind Gambians that until and unless all acts of injustice and violations are adequately and properly investigated and addressed the dream of a lasting peace and the attainment of justice for all shall remain an illusion. When we condone, ignore or accept a violation of rights and the destruction of the rule of law we therefore put ourselves at risk someday. Our individual and collective security lie only in the upholding of the rule of law, the protection of human rights and ensuring accountability of all.
Remember, if we fail to fully and adequately address this injustice, another victim in another massacre could be your own child!
We will release the April 10 and 11 Commission of Inquiry Report 2000 at the press conference.