Gambia: The Challenges of the TRRC - Human Rights Activism and Transitional Justice

opinion

The Gambia is going through what has never been done in the past. Torture and extra judicial killings and murder have never been thoroughly investigated and put on the social landscape as is happening today. The TRRC has a different mandate from a court. Its objectives are stipulated in section 13 of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Act:

"The objectives of the Commission are to - (a) create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights from July1994 to January 2017, in order to- (i) promote healing and reconciliation, (ii) respond to the needs of the victims; (iii) address impunity; and (iv) prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered. (b) establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of disappeared victims; (c) provide victims an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations and abuses suffered; and (d) grant reparations to victims in appropriate cases."

The objectives are very clear. Now that its mandate is being fulfilled, human rights activists should measure how far they should go so as not to meddle with the mandate, independence and impartiality of the TRRC. Currently, the TRRC is being left aside and the Attorney General is being drawn more and more into speaking about matters which are within the jurisdiction of the TRRC. It is the TRRC that is given responsibility of making recommendations. It should not be pressurized or hindered from making one recommendation or another. The Attorney General should be left out of the scene when it comes to matters within the jurisdiction of the TRRC.

The TRRC becomes credible when the witnesses come voluntarily to speak, when no sword of domicile is over their head, when Ex-Captain Sabally finished his testimony, no one debated whether he should be held in custody or not. All appreciated that he spoke and threw light on some of the atrocities. He is moving freely and the TRRC is continuing its work. This encouraged many to come forward to speak.

In the end, the TRRC would give its recommendation. The people would then be able to assess whether justice is actually done. The victims and their families are the most important determinants as to what should happen to the perpetrators.

Foroyaa would want to remind all those who claim to be human rights defenders that in transitional justice, the victims and their family members should not be influenced by human rights activism. They should be allowed to digest the evidence, be counselled, if they are traumatized and be left for conscience to guide their action. They may choose to forgive without reparation, they may demand for justice to take its course.

In our view, substantial evidence has been acquired through voluntary confession. The human rights activists could best serve the country if they encourage the maintenance of the environment that would not be too threatening to those who would make voluntary confession. This is how matters stand.

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