Following consultations with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission will resume its public hearings on June 8, 2020. The decision to resume hearings was taken at a meeting of Commissioners, Secretariat staff and the Legal Unit on Monday, May 11. The Commission will pick up from where it stopped, with witnesses expected to testify on road attacks by Jammeh’s motorcade and conditions at Gambia’s prisons.
In light of the current State of Emergency and Covid-19 rules and regulations, seating arrangements for Commissioners and staff at the hearing hall will be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing and other precautionary measures. It is also anticipated that only a few family members or close relatives of witnesses will be allowed in the hall, in addition to essential TRRC support staff including interpreters, sound engineers, psychosocial and medical support workers, security officers and media personnel. While all media houses will still be able to cover the proceedings, measures will be put in place to ensure that social distancing and other Covid-19 rules are observed.
Arrangements will be made by the Secretariat’s Human Resources department to see how best all units of the Commission will operate full time while observing Covid-19 precautions. Unit heads will be advised to prepare rosters by which only a certain number of staff will be present at the office on any particular day while other staff will continue working from home.
The resumption of public hearings on June 8 is in accordance with the Commission’s schedule and work plan for 2020. It would also mean that the Commission will have lost only two weeks of hearings. In that case, public hearings will be projected to end during the last, rather than the first week of November 2020 as initially planned.
The TRRC suspended public hearings and face to face outreach activities on March 18 following the Gambia’s government’s announcement of an initial three-week suspension of public gatherings in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The end of that initial three-week period coincided with the beginning of the Commission’s Ramadan break. The Secretariat however remained partially open as staff came in as they could but mainly worked from home. The Research and Investigations, Victim Support, Finance, and Human Resources units continued their work without much interruption, while other units scaled down operations.