Gambia Is Not Ready To Try Junglers

By Abdoulie John

Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambadou, on Tuesday said The Gambia is not yet ready to hold trial involving former members of ex-dictator’s hit squad, commonly known as “Junglers.” Two years after their arrest, some of them are still awaiting trial.

He made this remark during a news conference held at his office located in the capital city, Banjul.

The “Junglers” are believed to be behind most of the atrocities committed during Yahya Jammeh’s two-decade long dictatorship. Disturbing accounts given by survivors revealed that they orchestrated the killings of 52 West African migrants in July 2005, who were suspected to be mercenaries. Confirmed reports suggest that 40 of them were killed and dumped into an abandoned well located in the Southern Senegalese region of Casamance. Eight of the arrestees were found shot dead along the coastline, about 30 km away from Banjul.

Tambadou said Gambia gov’t will not deny that those arrested have been in detention for a long time but he revealed that some “Jungles” have accepted committing “very terrible crimes.”

“They are in detention. They’ve not been brought before a court. It is a challenge for us,” he conceded.

The tiny West African nation is emerging from the shadows of dictatorship and there is rising demand for justice spearheaded by the Victim’s Center. The upcoming Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is expected to address many issues including the fate of Junglers. Authorities are set to launch the much-awaited commission next week Monday.

Justice Minister further stated that his office is still reviewing their case. “We are working with an international team (name withheld) to find a way forward,” he added.

“What do you do with a group of people who have accepted committing heinous crimes?” he quizzed. “We are not yet ready in terms of personnel, structure to undertake such heavy trial.”

He said the Solo Sandeng case has entered its second year and the trial is still at the prosecution phase. “These cases are not very straight forward. They require a lot of things. I don’t think this country is yet ready to hold trial of this magnitude,” he reiterated.

Minister Tambadou assured that the detained “Junglers” have not been tortured and then added that government is ready to allow international organizations such as Red Cross to visit them so that anyone can confirm that they have not been mistreated.

When asked whether he is envisaging plans to take the “Junglers” case up with the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), he said he is not at liberty of saying what they are doing with regards to their case.