The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has told Gambia government that UN does not tolerate amnesty for major crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other gross violations of human rights.
He urged Gambian authorities to prosecute major crimes under the former president Yahya Jammeh as the country debates the best plan for its transitional justice.
“Let me also recall that amnesties can undermine a State’s obligation to investigate and prosecute crimes. According to international law and UN policy, amnesties are unacceptable if they prevent the prosecution of individuals who are criminally responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other gross violations of human rights,” Al Hussein said.
The UN says it is particularly important for The Gambia to fulfill its duty to undertake effective investigations and prosecutions of violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law, which constitute crimes under international law.
It also called for judicial proceedings to be independent, fair, impartial and timely.
Victims of Jammeh’s government are seeking swift justice. At least 24 people, mostly former security officers have been arrested. Nine are being prosecuted for the torture-death of an opposition activist.
Gambia’s government held an international human rights meeting in Banjul, which was meant to chart ways in ensuring transitional justice in its post-dictatorship era.
The meeting is expected to serve as the basis for the reforms of the country’s laws and institutions and it was attended by right groups like Amnesty International and Sierra Leone’s Justice Minister, Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, who shared his country’s post-war experience with the delegates and how Gambia could learn from it.
Gambia’s Attorney General Aboubacarr Tambadou, who has led a team to understudy the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Serra Leone, has said that conference will discuss topics on constitutional review, institutional reforms, criminal justice and media law reforms.
Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh has been accused of committing serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, killing, and torture against those who voiced opposition to the government.
State security forces most frequently implicated in violations were members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), a paramilitary group known as the “Jungulers,” and the Gambian Police Force.
Rights groups say Gambia’s government should act to prosecute those responsible for grave crimes committed during the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh.
The opposition candidate, Adama Barrow defeated incumbent Yahya Jammeh, who had held power since a 1994 coup.
The victory of Barrow in the December 2016 presidential election brought hope for improved respect for human rights and the rule of law.
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Additional Writing and Editing by Sam Phatey)