CIVIL society organisations have urged the Gambian government to ‘take concrete steps to bring former president Yahya Jammeh and his alleged accomplices to justice’.
Under the Jammeh2Justice campaign, the activists released a statement on Wednesday expressing concern over the turn of events following President Adama Barrow’s visit to Equatorial Guinea, were Jammeh is living in exile.
While attending an African Union extraordinary summit on terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government in Malabo at the end of May, Barrow used the opportunity for The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea to sign four bilateral agreements establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries and strengthening trade ties.
The move has rattled human rights activists who feel that the deal between The Gambia and Equatorial Guinea could scupper attempts to extradite Jammeh to face trial.
Days before the accords were signed, the Gambian Minister of Justice, Dawda Jallow, said categorically: ‘President Jammeh will face justice for the atrocities that he committed in this country.’
He was reassuring Gambians that the government would abide by the recommendations of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that looked into human rights abuses in the country during the 22-year rule of Jammeh.
The report presented to the government last November recommended that those most responsible for gross human rights abuses between July 1994 and January 2017 be prosecuted, including Jammeh.
Now Jammeh2Justice is not happy that Barrow ‘conducted a state visit to Equatorial Guinea and did not even raise the subject of Jammeh’s extradition’.
Its statement said: ‘We are aware that President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea has said that he will “protect” Jammeh.
‘However, Equatorial Guinea has ratified the UN Convention against Torture, which legally requires it to extradite Jammeh for alleged torture if it does not prosecute him.’
The TRRC had linked Jammeh to the enforced disappearance, killing and torture of opposition members and journalists, among a host of allegations.
Other accusations included shooting of peaceful demonstrators, the murder of 59 West African migrants, and ‘witch hunts’ during which hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained and many died as a result.
Having accepted the TRRC recommendations and made a commitment to prosecute Jammeh and his accomplices, Gambians are now wondering how the government will handle the issue in the wake of the Gambia’s new ties with Equatorial Guinea.
Jammeh2Justice said: ‘We had hoped that the government would provide greater clarity and detail on the judicial framework it intends to create for those prosecutions.
‘Since 2019, the Gambia Bar Association has led a series of multi-stakeholder consultations, which proposed a “hybrid” court, anchored on a treaty with ECOWAS, with Gambian and international staff, with a much greater role for victims than under the current Gambian system, and with the possibility of detaining suspects and holding trials outside of The Gambia.
‘Whatever path the government chooses, however, laws still have to be enacted, the judicial framework has to be established, cases have to be prepared, and Yahya Jammeh has to be extradited,’ the statement added.
Jammeh2Jutice is hoping that ECOWAS will step in to put pressure on Equatorial Guinea to extradite Jammeh for him to face trial in the region.
‘A request coming from an ECOWAS-backed court would be very difficult to refuse, but the initiative to create such a court and the impetus for such regional backing has to come from the Gambian government,’ Jammeh2Justice said.