Wednesday, September 23, 2020

TRRC Digest Edition 9

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Dear all,

We are pleased to announce that TRRC Digest Edition 9 is finally out and available.

Session 9 of the TRRC was a historical moment for the Gambia as it was devoted to the highly sensitive issue of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Two experts on SGBV came before the Commission describing the magnitude of this phenomenon in the country and detailing the devastating medical, economical and psychosocial consequences it has on survivors, families and communities.

During the session, witnesses testified having been subjected to torture due to their gender and rape or threatened with gang rape while in detention by security officials during the Yahya Jammeh regime. Others testified about the rapes they suffered in the hands of most senior persons of that regime including then Minister of Interior Ousman Sonko and former President Yahya Jammeh. Despite their first hand testimonies regarding the sexual and gender-based violence they were subjected to, these were frequently and notably referred to as “alleged” by Legal Counsels and other TRRC staff, which had not been the case, because witnesses discussed topics such as torture, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings during previous sessions.

Furthermore, during this session, some witnesses were either prevented from naming persons accused of sexual violence or asked to refer to those accused of enabling a system put in place by Yahya Jammeh and ran by his relative Jimbi Jammeh, by using numbers which was not the case in other testimonies. In one instance the Counsel accepted when the witness “preferred not to mention” the name of a “facilitator” who brought women from abroad to Jammeh. It is also to be noted that the man accused by the anonymous witness of sexually assaulting her in his office at the Ministry of Justice is reportedly still working there, despite assurances from the Ministry that they take the issue of SGBV seriously.

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The session also saw three days dedicated to the testimony of Edward Singhateh, a high-profile alleged perpetrator, who denied all the accusations against him most notably, the murder of former Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay.

We would like to highlight the case of Mariama Camara and her husband Alpha Jallow, reportedly sexually exploited by Yahya Jammeh and killed on his orders after allegedly getting her pregnant. We urge the TRRC to give this case specific attention as it relates to gender-based violence but is also one of the rare cases where a woman was killed on the orders of Jammeh.

Another important issue to investigate is the information reported by Binta Jamba that Ousman Sonko had brought other women before her to a building opposite the State House, where he kidnapped, beat and raped her.

We end by taking this opportunity to applaud and thank the brave women who came forward to testify about these human rights violations, despite being at risk of threats, victim-blaming or not being believed. By doing so, they took a stand to dismantle the rape culture, challenge historical power imbalances and end sexual violence in The Gambia, which we all have a responsibility to do.

Produced By: The Point Newspaper and The African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances, ANEKED.

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