Supporters of president-elect Adama Barrow celebrate his inauguration at Gambia's embassy in Dakar, Senegal January 19, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon - RTSWBX0

Gambia told to get human rights commission operational

The government of Adama Barrow has been asked by rights defenders to make the Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission operational.

It is hoped that the commission can support the efforts to ensure accountability and strengthen human rights protections after the end of the dictatorship.

Gambia emerged from two decades of autocratic rule under Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh governed with an iron fist and allegedly tortured and killed opposition activists, journalists and rights defenders.

“Gambians who have been victims of repression over the last 22 years are seeking justice, and it is essential that there is accountability for the human rights crimes of the past,” says Amnesty International’s Alieu Tine.

Rights defenders say, however, any investigation and prosecution into human rights abuses must be done in a way that ensures fair trials for those suspected to be involved and provides a positive example of how justice can be done in this new era.

Gambia is seeking help from Sierra Leone and South Africa to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The truth commission is to start hearing from victims of Jammeh’s government by September.

Jammeh has for long-postponed the launching of a human rights commission. UN and the EU have pressured the ousted leader to constitute the commission to independently look into allegations of human rights abuse.

The victory of Adama Barrow in the December 2016 presidential election brought hope for improved respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Barrow’s government faces enormous challenges to rebuild the country’s broken economy and long-neglected institutions. Key issues include providing justice to victims of Jammeh-era abuses, reforming the security services, and rebuilding the judiciary.

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