Regional Lawmakers Recognise Gambia’s Constitutional Independence to Establish Special Tribunal

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By: Kebba AF Touray

ECOWAS Parliamentarians have said that the Gambia has the constitutional independence to establish a special tribunal to try alleged human rights violations that happened under the leadership of Former President, Yahya AJJ Jammeh.

The regional lawmakers made this intervention on Wednesday, 3 July 2024, while deliberating on a report of the Joint Committee on a proposal seeking the support of the organization to establish a Special Tribunal in The Gambia.

Some of the key contributions made during the deliberation were that the matter at stake is so sensitive that if the Community Parliament intervenes, it could potentially divide the country again as there will be issues coming up.

According to lawmakers, they have already seen what has happened and they know very well that stability in every country counts.

According to the lawmakers, the community parliament could encourage, support, and discuss with the Gambia what to consider, “but rather to establish it ourselves, no. It wouldn’t be good for us”.

The Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) thus rejected to adopt a draft decision on the establishment of a special tribunal for The Gambia, and the adoption of the tribunal’s statute under the watch of ECOWAS.

The proposal was brought forward on Wednesday, 3rd  July 2024, during the First Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament.

The regional lawmakers, during the plenary sitting on the 3rd, dismissed the report of the joint committee, arguing that Gambia has a constitutional duty to establish such a tribunal independently without the intervention of ECOWAS.

The 6th parliament in a resolution marked: ECW/PARL/RES.004/JULY/2024, deliberated and resolved to reject the draft decision on Friday in Abuja during the ongoing 2024 first ordinary session.

The joint committee on legal affairs and human rights, political affairs, peace, security and APRM, social affairs, gender and women empowerment of the Parliament submitted a report on Thursday in which The Gambia had sought the collaboration of ECOWAS to set up a tribunal to try human rights abuses in the country.

The Resolution was that while The Gambia has the sovereign right to set up a tribunal to try past crimes, right abuses, and atrocities perpetrated especially during the reign of former President Yahya Jammeh between 1994 and 2017, ECOWAS should not be part of the tribunal in the country.

The Gambia established the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in 2017 to investigate and document human rights abuses committed in the country between July 1994 and January 2017. This covers the period Jammeh ruled the country when he allegedly committed atrocities against his people and even other Africans

The parliament explained in the resolution that the draft decision under consideration was not submitted to it within the time frame required by its Supplementary Act, therefore members did not have adequate time to thoroughly examine it.

The parliament noted that it was also mindful of Article 9 of the supplementary act relating to the enhancement of the powers of the parliament, which specifies areas in which it must be consulted in the community texts adoption process.

The ECOWAS Parliament is “deeply concerned about peace and stability in West Africa, and about the impact that the establishment of the special tribunal for The Gambia under the leadership of ECOWAS could have on peace and security in The Gambia and the region”.

The Parliament “Recognizes the right of The Gambia to establish a special tribunal to prosecute crimes, serious human rights violations committed on its territory between 22 July 1994 and 21 January 2017, to fight against impunity, deliver justice to the victims and preserve respect for the rule of law” in the country.

The Parliament therefore “overrules the idea of establishing the said special tribunal under the leadership of ECOWAS.”

After the resolution, the parliament requested the Speaker, Memounatou Ibrahima to transmit it to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Touray for onward transmission to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Yusuf Tuggar.