The Gambia of Victims of Human Right Violations in an open letter are calling on the Speaker of the National Assembly, Fabakary Tombong Jatta to cause Hon. Almami Gibba to publicly withdraw his “insensitive comments and apologise” to victims.
Hon. Gibba was reported to have used verbal attack on the victims of human rights violations of former President Yahya Jammeh’s regime in a form of denial while “blaming” the victims themselves during a training organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Women in Liberation and Leadership (WILL) from 16th to 19th September 2022 in the auditorium of the National Assembly.
The full text of Open Letter reads below:
“We learnt, with utter dismay and distress, about the attacks by National Assembly Member, (NAM), Almami Gibba against the dignity of victims of human rights violations of the former regime. The attacks, which evidently sought to effectively deny these human rights violations and then blame victims for them was made during a training organised by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Women in Liberation and Leadership (WILL) from 16th to 19th September 2022 in the auditorium of the National Assembly for the purpose of advocating for the National Assembly to play its rightful role in the implementation of the TRRC Report and the Government White Paper.
On the third day of the conference, 18th September Hon. Gibba took it upon himself to create the narrative that victims deserved what they got and that just as victims and other stakeholders have a right to defend rights, he also had the right to defend former Pres. Jammeh and other people. As a result of his repugnant comments, a fellow NAM, Yaya Sanyang, Member for LatriKunda Sabiji had to interject by attempting to switch off his microphone to save victims who were present from hearing those insensitive comments. Hon. Gibba did not only make quite obnoxious comments, but he also went further to physically confront victims present at the forum thereby bringing huge distress and pain on them.
As the body constituting victims, the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations (Victims’ Center), Victim-Led organizations and all victims of human rights violations in The Gambia hereby expresses our total condemnation and rejection of Hon. Gibba’s actions. Since the TRRC was established by an act of the parliament, it behooves us to remind you and all honorable members of their obligation to recognize and uphold the integrity of the TRRC and its report and recommendations. To certify the validity of the TRRC Report, the Gambia Government has issued a White Paper on the report, accepting the Commission’s recommendations and submitted a copy to the National Assembly. Therefore, the documented human rights violations and the victims identified in the TRRC Report are valid for which no person, more so a NAM has the right or power to dismiss or deny them. Only the courts of the Gambia have the authority to accept or reject the allegations findings made in the TRRC Report.
For that matter, victims do not expect any member of the National Assembly to dispute, disregard or disrespect the TRRC Report and the Government White Paper, and victims in anyway. Rather, it is the obligation of the National Assembly to facilitate the implementation of the Government White Paper. Victims of any kind, more so victims of the former regime deserve only support, protection, and justice from National Assembly Members, who are under constitutional obligation to protect human rights.
In this regard, the Victims Centre and partner victim’s organizations hereby demand that:
1. As the Speaker of the National Assembly, you cause Hon. Almami Gibba to publicly withdraw his insensitive comments and apologize to victims.
2. You impress on all NAMs to recognize their duty to uphold the laws and decisions of public institutions such as the TRRC.
3. You impress on all NAMs to uphold the values of decency, civility, compassion, and commitment to justice especially when they interact with victims of human rights violations.
Victims recognize and value the role and contribution of the National Assembly in the creation of the TRRC and for the overall protection of human rights in this country. Today more than ever, the National Assembly has a greater role to ensure the success of the transitional justice process to usher in a new Gambia of respect for human rights, adherence to the rule of law and that never again shall this country endure abuse of citizens from the State. The uncouth behavior from Almami Gibba, if left unaddressed, will indeed undermine these ideals, and pose a direct threat to the unity and the future peace and stability of this country.
We count on your good office to act in defense of the rights and dignity of victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the former regime.”