A GAMBIAN truth commission has heard testimony that former president Yahya Jammeh was responsible for numerous grave crimes during his 22 years in office, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
These include ordering the killing and torture of political opponents, the murder of 56 West African migrants and ‘witch hunts’ in which hundreds of women were arbitrarily detained.
Jammeh also allegedly participated in the rape and sexual assault of women brought to him.
On December 5, 2019, the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) will conclude its first year of publicly televised hearings.
The hearings, which included the testimony of victims and former government officials, highlighted the need for a criminal investigation of Jammeh, who has lived in exile in Equatorial Guinea since his departure from the Gambia in January 2017.
‘The truth commission is systematically amassing evidence of Yahya Jammeh’s alleged crimes,’ said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who works with Jammeh’s victims.
‘Thanks to the commission’s work and to the courage of the survivors, we are learning more each day about the horrors and brutality that Gambians endured over 22 years.’
As of November 28, the truth commission had heard 168 witnesses, including 74 former government ‘insiders’ such as four ministers, the chief of police, the chief protocol officer, a presidential bodyguard, and military junta members.
Since November 11, the truth commission has been holding hearings on the 2009 ‘witch hunts’ in which foreign ‘witch doctors’ (or marabouts) and soldiers took up to 1 000 women to secret detention centres and forced them to drink hallucinogenic concoctions, with several reported deaths and rapes.
The Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission has said that future sessions will examine in detail the killing of the 56 West African migrants as well as Jammeh’s ‘presidential treatment programme,’ in which HIV-positive Gambians were forced to give up their medicine and put themselves in Jammeh’s personal care.
The commission has one year remaining in its mandate, though an extension is possible.