Gambia will not be jailing of some perpetrators of human rights violations in the former regime to strongly encourage truth-telling about past abuses, the West African nation’s Attorney General, Aboubacarr Tambadou said.
“The simple reality is that we may not be able to prosecute everyone who was involved in alleged State sanctioned crimes over the past 22 years….Hard choices and difficult decisions will have to be made,” according to Tambadou.
” There will be justice for everyone but justice can come in many different forms. It is not only about punitive sanctions against perpetrators. It also includes restoring, to the extent possible, the shattered lives of victims and their loved ones.”
Gambia emerged from more than two decades of brutal autocratic rule, in which many citizens have suffered abuses in the hands of the regime led by former army lieutenant, Yahya Jammeh.
The new government has pledged to establish a truth commission to probe allegations of human rights abuses and have conducted a study tour in Sierra Leone, which had a similar duty.
AG Tambadou said authorities want to ensure documentation of an accurate historical record of past abuses “so that appropriate lessons can be learned in order to put in place mechanisms to prevent recurrence.”
“If we want to avoid going back to that kind of governance environment in future, we must conduct a post-mortem of the past to understand how we got to this point in the first place…. We would like to know how the infrastructure of terror was created,” he said.
“That is why perpetrators must tell the whole truth. In order to encourage them to do so, there will have to be some kind of benefit for them. This may take many forms, including guarantees against future prosecution in appropriate cases.”
The Gambia’s Justice Department chief has warned perpetrators, who do not come forward to share their experiences with the Commission that they would face prosecution should there be credible evidence of their involvement in any abuses.
UN rights chief reminded Gambia’s new leadership that the world body those not tolerate amnesty for major crimes, including gross human rights violations, warning that amnesty can undermine the state’s obligation to investigate and prosecute crimes.
Although activists may frown upon giving amnesty to some perpetrators, not having some prosecuted is part of the workings of a truth commission and Tambadou says he is cognizant that not everyone will be fully satisfied with the outcome of this process.
“It is a process tried and tested in many parts of the world and is generally regarded as the best possible outcome for sustainable peace in an extremely challenging situation such as ours,” he said.