Gambia - Truth, Reconciliation, Reparations Commission Inaugurated

The body is to investigate abuses committed during the 22-year reign of President Yahya Jammeh.

True to his promise, President Adama Barrow of the Gambia on October 15, 2018 officially began efforts to make amends for the human rights abuses of the administration of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh was forced out of office in January 2017 following pressure from the subregional body, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, after he lost a presidential election.

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, TRRC, whose members were sworn in on Monday, will use a court-like approach to investigate how abuses began and became systemic, and the impact they had. Victims and witnesses will be invited to testify in public hearings, with specific sessions on certain themes or the role of institutions.

The commission is empowered to recommend financial compensation and advise the prosecution of perpetrators. However, it remains to be seen if the man at the origin of the abuses, Yahya Jammeh, will ever stand trial. He is on self-imposed exile in Equatorial Guinea since leaving power. The 11 TRRC members - four women, seven men - are drawn from all of The Gambia's major regions, five main ethnic groups and two religions.

The panel is led by a retired UN diplomat, Lamin Sise. The commissioners were chosen after a long process of consultation with civil society and local communities. They have two years to investigate the entire period of Yahya Jammeh's administration. Meanwhile, the Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, a charity set up by victims and relatives of victims, says it has already documen ted hundreds of abuses.

Death squads, disappearances, sexual violence, torture and summary detentions were commonplace under Jammeh's 22-year reign after he overthrew founding President Sir Dawda Jawara in a 1994 military coup.

According to Marta Colomer of Amnesty International, the TRRC's immediate task is for the public to understand its work. "This will be key to managing victims' expectations," she added. "

Prosecuting perpetrators is a lesson to others that no amount of time, dis tance or power can prevent justice," said human rights activist, Madi Jobarteh. "Justice provides solace and relief to victims, even if it does not fully restore the rights, dignity and properties they lost, or ease the pain they endured," Jobarteh noted.

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