Nov 25, 2021
Gambia investigators urge justice for abuses under Jammeh
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Investigators with Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission delivered a final report to the president Thursday, identifying and recommending prosecution for those most responsible for crimes and human rights abuses committed during the 22-year rule of former President Yahya Jammeh.
Upon receiving the report, President Adama Barrow said he hoped the commission will be one of his legacies as a leader of Gambia.
After Barrow’s election in 2016, he vowed to right the wrongs of the past, especially widespread abuses under previous leader Jammeh. The commission was mandated to establish an impartial historical record of abuses committed from July 1994 to January 2017, when Jammeh fled into exile after losing elections. More than two years of hearings that led to this report documented human rights abuses and horrors that occurred under Jammeh’s rule.
Its submission comes just before Gambia’s 2 million people are set to vote in presidential elections on Dec. 4, in which Barrow is running for re-election against five other candidates.
After submitting the report, Commission Chair Lamin J. Sise said that “the individuals involved in perpetrating the violations and abuses must be held accountable for their crimes” and their names are “mentioned expressly in the relevant sections of the report.”
The commission found that the abuses resulted in the deaths of “240 to 250 Gambians and non-Gambians in the hands of state or its agents.”
Sise did not mention the names of those the commission has recommended for prosecution, however, there is little doubt that Jammeh is among those named, according to experts.
“The evidence is in … We have the truth,” Baba Hydara, whose father Deyda Hydara was a newspaper editor killed in 2004, said.
“Now we need justice,” he said. “Justice for my father, justice for all of Jammeh’s victims, and justice for Gambian society as a whole.”
Jammeh is likely at the top of the list of former officials whose prosecution is recommended, Reed Brody of the International Commission of Jurists, who works with Jammeh’s victims, said.
“Witnesses with first-hand knowledge implicated Jammeh in murder, torture, rape and the other terrible crimes cited by the commission,” said Brody.
“This report begins the countdown to the day Yahya Jammeh will have to face his victims. Whether it’s in The Gambia or before an international court, it will be very difficult now for him to escape justice,” he said.
The commission’s report will not be made immediately public.
Barrow, who received the report in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, now has six months to release a paper on how to implement the recommendations submitted by the commission. He promised Thursday that “justice will be done.”
Jammeh, who seized power in 1994 in a bloodless coup, was voted out of office in 2016 after opposition parties created a coalition with Barrow as the main candidate.
After initially agreeing to step down, Jammeh resisted and a six-week crisis saw neighboring West African countries prepare to send in troops to stage a military intervention. Jammeh was forced into exile and fled to Equitorial Guinea aboard a plane with his family and many belongings.
The 56-year-old Jammeh still has considerable support in the tiny West African nation, despite the abuses that took place under his rule.
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Bipartisan Group Fights To Keep Military Justice Reform In Defense Bill
A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing to ensure that an overhaul to how the military handles cases of sexual assault and other major crimes is not omitted from the National Defense Authorization Act.
In a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 44 senators and 22 representatives called on the reforms to pass as part of the annual defense bill.
“Sexual assault in the military is a serious concern and demands a real solution, not a watered-down provision slipped in the final bill behind closed doors,” the group wrote.
“This provision is the only reform that will provide true independence for prosecutors in the military justice system and is essential to ensure that victims, accused, and the public all have full faith and confidence in the military justice process,” the letter added. (RELATED: Josh Hawley, Kirsten Gillibrand Team Up To Improve The Military’s Response To Sexual Assault)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks about the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Actl military prosecutors. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
The reform would transfer prosecution of major crimes like murder and sexual assault from the military chain of command to independent prosecutors. A similar provision was included in the House-passed version of the bill, while Gillibrand’s provision was included in the bill that passed out of the Senate Armed Services Committee, though the full chamber has struggled to pass the bill over Republican objections to what they allege are a lack of amendment votes. (RELATED: Schools On Military Bases Failed To Report 88% Of Juvenile Sexual Assault And Misconduct Complaints To Police)
The bipartisan cohort of lawmakers wrote that the lack of reform has been “plaguing the military for decades, despite countless congressional mandates, $1 billion of funding, and promises from leadership that they would address it.”
“Our service members do not have years or decades more to wait for the DoD to solve this problem,” the lawmakers said. “We must act with an urgency that meets this moment and urge you to ensure the NDAA provides true independence for prosecutors in the military justice system and covers all major offenses in the [Unified Code of Military Justice].”
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