Gambia: Pressure mounts on Barrow to bring Jammeh to trial

By Marième Soumaré
Posted on Thursday, 15 September 2022 11:30

Adama Barrow and Yahya Jammeh. ©Jeune Afrique montage: Benoit Tessier/REUTERS; Thierry Gouegnon/REUTERS

The Gambian president has pledged to try those responsible for the crimes committed during the dictatorship of his predecessor Yahya Jammeh, including the former autocrat himself. Will Jammeh be extradited? More details on the mechanism in place.

The Gambian government officially committed itself last May to implementing the recommendations of the Truth Commission, which established which of the Jammeh regime’s dignitaries were responsible for what. Jammeh himself is accused of numerous crimes (murder, torture, rape, arbitrary detention), along with senior officials and members of the “Junglers”, who acted as a death squad during his time in power. The report by the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Committee, which was presented to the president and made public in December, is based on the testimony from victims and the witnesses of crimes committed from 1994 to 2017. No less than 265 recommendations have been made and the 70 alleged perpetrators are to be prosecuted.

Confidential strategy

The vast majority of these recommendations were endorsed by Justice Minister Dawda Jallow. He also announced the creation of a special court based in the Gambia, but which could hold hearings in other jurisdictions. A special prosecutor will be appointed and an investigative unit under his ministry is also to be set up. British lawyer Tony Cadman, a specialist in international law, has made several visits to Banjul to advise the authorities. According to our information, two other consultants have also been recruited to develop an implementation strategy –still confidential – based on the recommendations.

The whole process is supported and funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The American Bar Association, linked to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is also providing legal assistance to the Gambian justice ministry. The head of UNDP’s governance section in the Gambia, Ida Persson, is responsible for coordinating support to the government, working with the judiciary, police and civil society organisations. The head of The Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission, Emmanuel Daniel Joof, is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the recommendations and briefing the new National Assembly annually.

Towards Jammeh’s extradition?

Civil society, victims’ associations and the Gambian Bar Association are nevertheless concerned about the government’s lack of transparency on the plan it intends to adopt to bring those responsible for crimes to justice. The cost of establishing the court will also depend on the option the authorities choose to conduct the prosecution.

The United States, the European Union, the African Union (AU) and the United Kingdom could contribute to funding this court. Civil society members are also trying to mobilise the executive to approach ECOWAS and the AU to facilitate the extradition of Jammeh, who is in Equatorial Guinea living under the protection of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. There is no extradition agreement in place between Banjul and Malabo.

The new chairman of the ECOWAS Commission, former Gambian foreign minister Omar Alieu Touray, could also intervene with the sub-region’s other governments to get them involved in the prosecution.

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