The UN says The Gambia must involve families of victims in the process of addressing rights violations committed by the defeated regime of ex-President Yahya Jammeh.
According to a delegation that met the West African nation’s new President Adama Barrow, it is of utmost importance to genuinely include from the outset families of people who disappeared and the organizations representing them in the consultation process.
There has been growing impatience as victims and families seek swift justice and experts say it is essential to manage the legitimate expectations of victims, including through clear and regular communication.
“We welcome the commitments made by the Government of The Gambia to embark on comprehensive reforms, including measures to ensure truth, justice and reparation for victims, as well as prevent any recurrence of disappearances in the future,” said Houria Es-Slami.
Es-Slami is the Chair of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and was in Banjul with Henrikas Mickevicius, a member of the group to access the country’s progress in addressing enforced disappearances.
Jammeh’s regime committed serious human rights violations including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture against those who voiced opposition to the government.
The UN officials met with family members and victims and said the stories they heard were “deeply saddening.”
“We reaffirm our solidarity with all the victims and their relatives,” said Henrikas Mickevicius.
“Their continued suffering is living proof that enforced disappearance is a continuous crime and a permanent violation of their human rights until the fate or whereabouts of the victim is clarified.”
Gambia’s security forces, especially the army and intelligence services have been the most blamed for rights abuses.
The Barrow administration has pledged it will carry out reforms and a vetting process.
At least nine former intelligence officers, including ex-spy chief Yankuba Badjie, have been charged and being prosecuted for the torture-death of an opposition activist.
Many former security officials are now at large and warrants have been issued for their arrest. Many of them, soldiers close to ex-ruler Jammeh have been implicated in the killing of Jammeh’s perceived enemies.