Gambia’s ex-President Yahya Jammeh may be holed up in a safe haven in a nation where human rights violations are also widespread but his victims are seeking his return.
This is not a return for the ex-autocratic ruler to have a comeback as the country’s leader but to be put on trial for the injustices of his decades-long rule.
The Gambia is setting up a Truth, Reconciliation and Repatriation Commission to investigate all allegations of human rights violations and crimes against the state by Jammeh’s regime.
But most victims are strongly calling for a “Truth and Justice Commission” that would see most, if not all those implicated in human rights abuses tried in court.
According to a center for Jammeh’s victims, justice must be the centerpiece of the Commission and that there can be no viable reconciliation “unless we hold all those people implicated in gross human rights abuses to account.”
“We believe it is important to make clear, however, that under international law, amnesties cannot apply to serious crimes such as torture and crimes against humanity,” they said.
“We hope the TRRC will make recommendations on how perpetrators of serious crimes, including former President Yahya Jammeh, should be held accountable.”
Gambian authorities, including the Attorney General, Aboubacarr Ba Tambadou, and the President Adama Barrow pledged that justice will be served.
Having the commission, they said, does not mean those that committed serious violations will not be put on trial and jailed for committing crimes against the people.
This may not be enough for the victims of Jammeh, who met with those of ex-Chadian dictator, Hissène Habré. They want to see Jammeh put on trial and jailed like Habré.
Hissène Habré was convicted of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture, including sexual violence and rape, by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system and sentenced to life in prison.
Putting Jammeh on trial and seeking his extradition from an autocratic nation like Equatorial Guinea, with no ties to the International Criminal Court may take decades.
Habré was put on trial 25 years after his ouster and fleeing to Senegal, one of the most democratic nations in Africa. The perseverance and tenacity of his victims and their allies led to the advent of the trial.