Gambia’s Parliament has passed a bill establishing a Commission that would investigate human rights abuses by the regime of the former authoritarian ruler, Yahya Jammeh.
Attorney General Aboubacarr Tambadou tabled the bill before parliament just weeks after the country’s President Adama Barrow and his cabinet reviewed it and gave their consent.
Rights activist called it a great step towards justice. Representatives from the Victim Center, a group pushing an international effort to have Jammeh returned to The Gambia to face justice witness the vote in Parliament.
Lawmakers unanimously backed the bill, which will institute the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission. It is the first step towards Barrow’s fulfillment of his pledge to investigate abuses under Jammeh.
“Gambia will greatly benefit from a truth-telling process that shines light on Jammeh’s abuses,” said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Gambian victims deserve a truth commission that gives them a platform to tell their stories and lays the groundwork for those most responsible for grave crimes to face justice.”
The Commission will sit for 11 months. The bill was finalized after a countrywide consultation was held by the Justice Department. President Barrow will consult international organizations and civil society groups to appoint members of the Commission.
Tambadou told Human Rights Watch that the government will offer individuals the opportunity of an amnesty to encourage them to come forward to disclose their role in past abuses.
According to the bill, it is important to have an accurate and impartial historical record of the violations, [and] document them for posterity to ensure that ‘never again’ do we encounter a reoccurrence of such abuses.
“Gambia’s truth commission is the first step in efforts to bring justice to victims and hold those responsible for serious crimes accountable,” Wormington said. “Gambia’s international partners should assist the government to ensure that the commission achieves its important aims.”
At least 24 former security officers accused of human rights abuses, including torture and killings have been arrested. Nine of them are already in court for the torture-death of an opposition activist, Solo Sandeng.
State security forces most frequently implicated in violations were members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), a paramilitary group known as the “Jungulers,” and the Gambian Police Force.
Those targeted included journalists, political opponents, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, many of whom fled the Gambia out of fear, says Human Rights Watch.