Human Right Watch (HRW) has called on the Gambia’s government to prosecute those responsible for grave crimes committed during the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh.
HRW says fair trials are crucial for victims and their families and for building respect for the rule of law in the country.
In a March 6, 2017, letter to Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, Human Rights Watch encouraged the new government of President Adama Barrow to develop a strategy detailing how it intends to hold to account those implicated in the arbitrary arrests, torture, and enforced disappearances that were the hallmark of Jammeh’s rule.
“All Gambians deserve to see justice for the terrible crimes committed during Jammeh’s rule,” said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The new government needs to identify the concrete steps it will take to investigate past abuses and ensure fair trials.”
Barrow defeated Jammeh in the December 2016 elections and was sworn in on January 19, two days before Jammeh finally stepped down under threat of a regional military intervention. Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
Since taking office, Barrow’s government has released dozens of political prisoners and has reversed Gambia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. Barrow has promised that victims of the Jammeh era will “get justice.” But while the government has announced plans for a truth and reconciliation commission, it has yet to say how it will conduct judicial investigations into past crimes.
During Jammeh’s rule, Human Rights Watch interviewed dozens of torture survivors, former detainees, and family members of Gambians killed or forcibly disappeared, including people targeted as long ago as 1996 and as recently as January 2017. Many described the government’s failure to investigate and prosecute abusive officials.