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Abuses under the former Gambian ruler should be prosecuted, the Inquiry says

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BANJUL, Gambia Documenting widespread atrocities under former Gambian autocratic president Yahya Jammeh, an investigative panel on Thursday recommended multiple prosecutions.

But the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission did not make public either its report or the names of the people it had recommended for prosecution, leaving it unclear whether Mr Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years before going into exile almost five years ago, is among those who could face criminal charges.

In the Gambia, a small part of a country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, Mr Jammehs’s oust ousting in 2017 was welcomed with joy.

But this mood has largely left room for disappointment with the government of his successor, President Adama Barrow, who is running for re-election. Mr. Jammeh and members of his regime have not been held accountable, government reform proposals have failed or stalled, and Mr. Barrow has made a political alliance with Mr.’s party. Jammehs.

We expect the president to show some commitment and political will to fully implement the recommendations, said Sheriff Kijera, president of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations. Jammeh must face justice at all costs.

Asked if the government would prosecute those most responsible for the abuses, Information Minister Ebrima Sillah said by telephone: “I can not commit to this, saying it will depend on the merits of the report.”

The commission reported the deaths of 240 to 250 people in state detention or its agents, as well as rape, torture, disappearances and witch-hunts, its chairman, Lamin Sise, told a news conference describing the findings in Banjul. The capital of the Gambia.

The panel held 871 days of hearings, broadcasting them live online on an extremely public broadcast of human rights abuses. Among the 393 witnesses who testified was a soldier who said he killed a prominent journalist on the orders of the president and a woman, Fatou Jallow, who accused Mr Jammeh of raping her.

The commission submitted its report to President Barrow, who is expected to provide copies within a month to the country’s National Assembly and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

This means that it is unlikely to be made public until after the December 4 presidential election. Among the candidates running against Mr Barrow is Essa Faal, a senior lawyer on investigative commissions.

Mr Barrow has secured the support of segments of Mr Jammehs’s party, which is not presenting its presidential candidate and still has considerable popular support. Supporting the prosecution of members of the previous government could jeopardize that support.

Mr Sillah, the information minister, said the president would have six months to review the report, after which the government would publish a document giving its response.

Mr Jammeh took power for the first time at the age of 29 with a military coup and promoted a new constitution that concentrated power in the hands of presidents. His rule was characterized by corruption and repression of the political opposition, the press and LGBT rights. He claimed to cure HIV with herbs.

But the government held relatively free elections in 2016 and Mr. Barrow defeated Mr. Jammeh, who refused to accept the results. Only after a military intervention by several neighboring countries in January 2017, Mr. Jammeh relinquished power, moving to Equatorial Guinea.

Mr. Barrows’s administration was to be a transitional administration, setting the Gambia on the path to democracy. But the recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry into the finances of Mr. The Jammehs were only partially implemented and last year a newly proposed, more democratic constitution was defeated in the National Assembly.

The proposed constitution would have curtailed executive powers and limited a president to two five-year terms. The mandate limit would be applied retroactively to Mr. Barrow, so he would only be allowed one more term.

This left the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission as the only official way left to reconcile with the Jammeh era. His final report was originally scheduled to be submitted in July, but was postponed until September and then delayed again.

We have the truth, said Baba Hydara, who has long campaigned for justice for the 2004 murder of his father, newspaper editor Deyda Hydara. Now we need justice. Justice for my father, justice for all the victims of Jammehs and justice for Gambian society as a whole.

Saikou Jammeh reported by Banjul, Gambia, and Ruth Maclean from Dakar, Senegal.

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/25/world/gambia-jammeh-prosecution.html

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