Monday, March 27

Judiciary, Executive agree Hybrid Court for Jammeh crimes

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The Chief Justice of The Gambia, the President and his Minister of Justice have all agreed to accountability mechanism of a hybrid court to prosecute human rights violations committed under the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh.

At the Legal Year event held on Sunday, Chief Justice Hassan B. Jallow proposed the establishment of a Special Criminal Division of the High Court of The Gambia for the purpose of prosecuting crimes emanating from TRRC White Paper.

“I propose, therefore, shortly, to establish by Constitutional Order, a Special Criminal Division of the High Court to hear and determine these cases as well as other serious criminal cases which fall outside the scope of the TRRC,” the CJ said.

The Attorney General’s Chambers & Ministry of Justice said it understands the concerns of the public in terms of implementation of the Government White Paper.  “However, it is for the greater good of this country that we address the atrocities that happened in the past tactfully,” Justice minister  Dawda Jallow said, affirming that his Ministry has made “significant progress” for the effective implementation of the Government White Paper and in ensuring that the rule of law prevails.

“Steps are also taken to develop and design our own accountability mechanism which will focus on greatly encouraging the participation of victims in seeking justice and accountability. In the area of accountability and justice, the Government is currently working with ECOWAS towards setting up Hybrid Court for prosecutions,” Mr Jallow added, however, without providing any time frame for the establishment of such a court.

The primary responsibility for the trial of such cases, according to the Chief Justice, rests on the local national authorities such as law enforcement and the local courts.  The CJ said foreign state or international jurisdictions often have a welcome role too, particularly in respect of cases where, for legal, jurisdictional or other factors, the national authorities are unable to discharge their primary mandate.

“I understand that in this context, there is ongoing consideration, for the establishment of a Hybrid, international or internationalized court for the prosecution of some of the cases identified by the TRRC.  This is very welcome,” said Jallow, explaining that as complement to this local judiciary, Gambian courts have been active at various levels –High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court – in some of these cases with the trials, and ensuing appeals in the cases of State vs Yankuba Touray, and State vs Yankuba Badjie & Others (the NIA Nine), as well as on the Constitutional immunity issues involved in the Yankuba Touray case.

Whilst the Ministry of Justice has said it is awaiting the launch of “an implementation plan” to guide the “overall” implementation process, Minister Jallow said they are playing a key role in the prosecution of some of the Junglers in the United States of America, Switzerland and Germany for the human rights violations committed during the Jammeh regime (details of which were discovered by the TRRC findings).

“The Ministry has been relentlessly assisting in the prosecution of these junglers in the stated countries by providing information of witnesses, evidence, and we have expressed our commitment to providing further support in the successful prosecution of the said Junglers,” the Justice Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice said the judiciary also welcomes the provision by the National Assembly of resources in the 2023 national budget to cover some of the costs of a special criminal division in the High Court in relation to staff, equipment and operations. 

“We look forward to additional funding by donors to provide supplementary support to the division which we plan to make operational by the middle of this year,” he pointed out, saying:  “This additional arrangement in our view will ensure timely trial of these serious cases and leave a lasting legacy for the judiciary and for the country well after the TRRC cases are concluded.”

For the Gambia Bar Association, the decision to establish a hybrid court (internationalised domestic mechanism) in partnership with ECOWAS to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for the gross human rights violations and abuses committed during the 22 years of the former regime is a testament of the commitment of the Government of The Gambia to ensuring the proper prosecution of perpetrators who committed crimes both under The Gambia’s domestic and international law.

“The Bar will continue to support and complement the efforts of the Government in the implementation of the TRRC recommendations, particularly in the area of criminal accountability. The Gambia has made a name globally for establishing a very successful truth seeking process which was very transparent, inclusive and participatory,” he said.

From truth seeking, he said it is imperative to ensure there is justice and accountability for the atrocities committed against Gambians and other West Africans.

“For without justice, reconciliation will be a tall order. There cannot be a meaningful truth seeking process, reconciliation and healing in the absence of addressing impunity and the question of justice and accountability,” Taal maintained. “It is important to ensure that the TRRC implementation transcends partisan politics and the quest for justice after the truth-seeking process is recognised as an integral part of coming to terms with our brutal past and saying no to impunity.”

In this regard, the Bar Association President will call on His Excellency President Adama Barrow to personally champion the implementation of the TRRC Recommendation to ensure accountability and reconciliation.

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