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Gambia truth panel urges prosecutions for Jammeh-era crimes

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Gambia truth panel urges prosecutions for Jammeh-era crimes

The Gambia‘s truth commission recommended on Thursday that the government prosecute a list of officials responsible for crimes committed under former dictator Yahya Jammeh, with victims insisting that the former leader himself be included.

Human rights groups have long called for Jammeh to be prosecuted for alleged abuses, including murder, torture and rape, during his 22 years in power in the West African nation.

A truth commission, the TRRC, created to investigate the allegations, delivered its final report to President Adama Barrow on Thursday and recommended that the government file criminal charges.

TRRC president Lamin Sise said the report mentions those who “bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and abuses.”

“Forgiving and forgetting … would not only undermine reconciliation, it would also constitute a massive and egregious cover-up of the crimes committed,” he said in a statement.

Sise did not specify whether Jammeh is named.

However, a statement from 11 Gambian and international human rights groups said that “there is no doubt that Yahya Jammeh was at the top of that list.”

Reed Brody, who works with victims of the Jammeh era, also said the report “begins the countdown to the day when Yahya Jammeh will have to face his victims.”

The truth panel‘s findings come after more than two years of hearings on the crimes of the Jammeh era.

Witnesses gave chilling evidence of state-approved torture, death squads, rape and witch hunts, often at the hands of the “Junglers,” as Jammeh’s death squads were known.

The TRRC does not have the power to prosecute those responsible for crimes and the content of its report will not be made public immediately.

Barrow is expected to release a technical report within six months on how to implement its recommendations.

At a press conference in the capital, Banjul, the president promised to deliver the white paper on time and assured the victims that “justice will be done.”

Political career
Jammeh seized power in 1994 as part of a bloodless military coup in the Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa.

He was then repeatedly re-elected in controversial circumstances until Barrow, then a relative unknown, defeated him at the polls in December 2016.

After a six-week crisis that prompted military intervention by other West African states, Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Despite the scale of the abuse allegations Jammeh faces, the 56-year-old retains a substantial following in the Gambia.

Many supporters are pushing for him to return from exile.

His influence has been a key issue in the run-up to the December 4 presidential election, the first since the former dictator’s departure.

Jammeh addressed a campaign rally remotely this month, arguing that Barrow had “rigged” the 2016 election.

Barrow, for his part, sought an alliance with Jammeh’s APRC party in September, a move some see as an electoral ploy.

Rights activists denounced the alliance, which also raised fears that it could lead to Jammeh’s return.

But Jammeh subsequently overruled the electoral pact, which he said was taken without his knowledge, and his supporters have formed a rival party.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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