Reed Brody, an American human rights lawyer who has come to be recognized as the “despot hunter”, has said there is already “substantial amount of evidence” against country former autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh.
Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, who spent last 15 years working with victims of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, has arrived in Gambia to help victims of former president Jammeh to build a case.
A criminal and human rights law attorney, Brody has worked with both victims of former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, and Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, a former Chilean dictator between 1973 and 1990.
“There is certainly a substantial amount of evidence and the evidence keeps coming out everyday… The case today is stronger than it would have been six months ago,” he said.
“There are hundreds of victims who are coming forward, many of them for the first time, to describe their suffering and what happened to them. And that is one part.”
Reed, who has met with Jammeh’s victims several times since the regime change, was in Banjul Monday morning to attend the court of the nine former intelligence operatives under the autocratic ruler who are standing trial for the murder of an opposition activist, Solo Sandeng.
Sandeng was allegedly tortured to death by Jammeh’s secret agents for protesting against the former regime’s “unfair electoral laws,” which he wanted to be repealed.
“That other part of the story is building a case to show that these crimes were the responsibility of Yahya Jammeh and that requires a different kind of evidence that he was personally involved either giving orders or cover it up,” Brody said.
“So we know a lot more today about Jammeh’s allege crimes that we did in January when he left the country and I am sure we will know a lot more a year from now than we do today.”
However, Brody said given the work that needed to be done in Gambia, building a successful case against Jammeh will take time.
It took more than 25 years to have Habre dragged to court in Senegal. Unlike Senegal, Jammeh’s host country, Equatorial Guinea is a dictatorship and one of the handful of nations not part of the International Criminal Court.
“… You need to prove that either Jammeh gave orders for these crimes to be committed or that he was responsible; or as a commander that he knew the crimes were being committed and he did not intervene to prevent them from happening or to punish their authors,” he said.
“This is call command responsibility… We have looked at the Gambian law and obviously, the country does not have a law on torture, crimes against humanity but a lot of what Jammeh did can fit within traditional criminal law such as murder, battering and things like that.”
(Reporting and Writing by Mustapha Darboe; Additional Writing and Editing by Sam Phatey)