By Yankuba Jallow
Essa M. Faal, the Lead Counsel to the TRRC Wednesday argued the Constitutional immunity accorded to the AFPRC members is discriminatory in nature.
Essa M. Faal mentioned this during a press briefing held at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday, 26th June 2019 following his argument with Yankuba Touray, an ex-member of the AFPRC.
The Armed Forces Provincial Ruling Council (AFPRC) ruled the Gambia from July 1994 to January 1997 under a transitional government headed by retired Captain Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh as the chairman.
Yankuba Touray appeared before the TRRC on Wednesday, but refused to give evidence relying on the constitutional immunity. Touray was arrested by members of the Police Intervention Unit immediately following the instruction given by the TRRC’s chairperson, Dr. Lamin Sise.
Counsel Faal put forward that the immunity provision of the Constitution is discriminatory as it provides immunity to members of the AFPRC and does extend to the people who execute their orders.
“It provides immunity to Yaya Jammeh but does not provide immunity to Musa Jammeh who used to execute their orders,”
The Constitution provides: “It shall not be lawful for any court or tribunal to entertain an action instituted in respect of an act or omission against a person acting or omitting to act on the instructions or authority of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, or a member thereof, and alleged to be in contravention of any law whether substantive or procedural, in existence before or during the administration of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council.”
Additionally, Counsel Faal told Gambians that Mr. Touray has never failed to honour any of the subpoenas of the TRRC.
“The failures to respond to our subpoenas were not Mr. Touray’s making; let me make that clear. The failures to respond to our previous subpoenas were not of Mr. Touray’s making,” Counsel Faal said.
He said the TRRC had given Mr. Touray two previous subpoenas and were both postponed by the Commission.
“We requested the postponement or we order the postponement. Mr. Touray is not at fault for not appearing on the dates of those subpoenas.
Counsel Faal said the Commission is a very important institution of the State especially as we search for ways and means to better strengthen democracy and the rule of law.
Faal indicated that this is a time when people are expected to express proper conduct and decorum especially those who have handled senior positions of the Government.
The Lead Counsel told the press that the objectives of the Truth Commission is to ensure that Gambians have a conversation among themselves in which they will look into the ills of the past with a view to identifying the problems, ensure healing and give victims a platform to talk about their own victimization and also for them to get some form of healing and for people to reconcile.
“The Commission has given Mr. Touray ample opportunities to cooperate with the Commission. It is disappointing he has behaved in this way. Mr. Touray does not have the right to refuse to answer questions before the TRRC especially questions that do have nothing to do with his immunity claims,” Faal said.
The Counsel stated that the TRRC encourages civilized behaviour.
“What has happened today is contempt in the face of the Commission and we believe that several offences have been committed,” Counsel Faal indicated.
He said it is only Mr. Touray who treated the TRRC in this manner.
“There is no other witness who is treating the TRRC in this manner,” he said.