The 14,000-page report submitted to President Barrow details nearly 400 victims of torture, murder and rape.
A long-awaited report of abuse allegations made during the 22-year rule of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has recommended the government to pursue criminal charges against those responsible.
Rights groups have long insisted on prosecution for alleged crimes, such as the use of death squads and rape, during Jammeh’s time in office, which ended in 2017.
The 14,000-page document, handed over Thursday by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to President Adama Barrow, nine days before the presidential election, in which the exiled Jammeh urged his supporters to vote for the opposition coalition.
“Forgive and forget violations and abuses… will not only undermine the reconciliation, but will also hide the offenses committed,” TRRC said in a statement.
The panel’s findings come after more than two years of trial in Jammeh-era crimes. About 400 witnesses gave chilling evidence about state-sanctioned torture, death squads, rape and “witch hunts”, often at the hands of “junglers”, as Jammeh’s death squads were known.
“I assure (the victims and their families) that my government will ensure justice,” Barrow said in a statement.
Army lieutenant Malik Jatta, close to Jammeh, said the former president paid more than $1,000 to members of his security service who killed newspaper editor Deida Haider in 2004, according to the Reuters news agency. Sergeant Omar Jalo told the commission that in 2005, Jammeh had ordered the execution of 59 unarmed migrants who had come to overthrow what Jammeh thought. Fatou Jalo, winner of the 2014 beauty pageant, testified that Jammeh raped her when she was 19.
Jammeh, who fled to Equatorial Guinea after refusing to concede defeat to Barrow in the 2016 election, has previously denied allegations of wrongdoing.
Al Jazeera’s Nicholas Haque said: “There is a desire among human rights lawyers that Yahya Jammeh, now free and living in exile in Equatorial Guinea, face justice for crimes committed under his rule. ” Gambia.
“People have more freedom to express themselves than at the time, but there is a feeling that people now want to go beyond simply expressing their grievances – they want to see the rule of law enforced and justice done.” He is going.”
At a news conference, TRRC President Lamin Sisse declined to comment on who should be specifically targeted for prosecution. Barrow or his successor will have six months to decide how to respond to the report. This could become the basis for criminal proceedings against Jammeh and others.
Even if Jammeh is found guilty, he may not face punishment. Under Gambian law, the former head of state cannot be prosecuted unless parliament approves the proceedings by a two-thirds majority.
Rights groups, who have been eagerly awaiting the report, welcomed the news that the TRRC has urged a trial.
Reed Brody, a human rights lawyer who worked with Jammeh-era victims, said in a statement that “there is no doubt that Yahya Jammeh tops the list of former officers being recommended for trial.”
Amnesty International also said in a statement that The Gambia should bring charges against wrongdoers to ensure that “state-sponsored human rights violations are never repeated”.
Despite the magnitude of the abuse allegations against Jammeh, the 56-year-old has quite the following in The Gambia. Many supporters are insisting on his return from exile.
His influence has been a key issue for the December 4 presidential election for the first time since Jammeh’s departure.
Jammeh, while addressing a campaign rally remotely this month, argued that Barrow had “rigged” the 2016 election.
Barrow, for his part, sought an alliance with Jammeh’s APRC party in September, a move seen by some as an election ploy.
Rights activists denounced the coalition, raising fears that it could lead to Jammeh’s return. But Jammeh later rejected the electoral deal, which he said was made without his knowledge, and that his supporters have formed a rival party.