Gambia’s government has been urged to criminalize torture and enforced disappearances, just six months after the ouster of the longtime autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh.
The United Nations advised as an immediate step that criminal legislation must be amended to include enforced disappearance and torture.
“Bringing laws against enforced disappearance and torture do not only help lawyers but their absence may also lead to impunity,” says Henrikas Mickevicius.
UN had sent experts to the Gambia to study the measures adopted by the West African state to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances and also advised on how to address past occurrences under Mr. Jammeh.
Jammeh’s regime often committed human rights abuses and stands accused of arbitrary detention and killing of his perceived enemies.
UN officials visited at leats two sites with suspected mass graves in Tintinba, Foni and in Tanji, in the Kombo Metropolitan.
“There are some concerns relating to some regions where the Working Group believes that there are many other burial sites or graves, example around the village of Kanilai and possible mass graves in the army barracks in Yundum,” Houria Es-Slami said.
Gambia’s police are overwhelmed with investigations into missing person reports, most of them feared dead and buried in one of Jammeh’s secret burial sites.
Police investigators agreed that they have little capacity to exhumed and identify the bodies. They have recently received training and equipment from the FBI.
Gambia’s Justice Department has a panel of missing persons but this panel is facing impediments in the identification of bodies exhumed from burial sites.
There are no labs and for many families seeking swift justice, the process is lengthy and time-consuming.
So far, the bodies of at least four people, including a U.S. Army veteran, who attempted to overthrow Jammeh in the winter of 2014 have been exhumed and returned to their families.