President Adama Barrow on Monday reiterated his government’s commitment to ensuring the independence of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
“We believe that in order for the process to be meaningful, the TRRC must be free from all forms of outside influence,” he said at a swearing-in ceremony of the TRRC’s 11 Commissioners at Dunes Hotel in Kotu, about 8 km away from Banjul.
Gambians ended Yahya Jammeh’s more than two decade long dictatorship in December 2016 Presidential elections, opening a new era in the country’s political history. The new regime has since vowed to right the wrongs of the past in dispensing justice to victims of human rights violations.
President Barrow said the TRRC Commissioners were appointed through “one of the most transparent and inclusive processes this country has ever known.”
“Therefore, we resolve here, today, to investigate and establish an impartial historical record of the nature, causes and extent of the violations and abuses of human rights committed from July 1994 to January 2017,” Gambian leader said.
Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou reminded the gathering about government’s resolve to establish “a new and resilient architecture” geared towards upholding the highest standards when it comes to human rights, justice and the rule of law.
Minister Tambadou outlined the path that needs to be taken to achieve “an ambitious legal and constitutional reform process” focusing on 5 key areas: Constitutional Review; Institutional Reform; Criminal Justice & Media Law Reform; Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations; and Addressing Impunity.”
Tambadou added that the establishment of the TRRC was preceded by a wide range of consultations he spearheaded, adding that the initiative included representatives from civil society organizations, victims’ groups, women’s groups, youth groups, professional associations
“Today therefore marks the beginning of a process that will demonstrate to the world that we are capable of reconciliation as a nation, and that our conduct during and after the 2016 elections is a true reflection of our national character as a peace loving and progress people,” he added.
The Prosecutor of the Hague-based International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda said when confronted with atrocities that shock the conscience of humanity, there is no justifiable reason to look the other way or to entertain immunity.
“Those responsible for such serious criminality must face justice in a properly constituted court of law that abides by and applies the highest standards of judicial administration and due process guarantees,” she added.
She also emphasized that truth commission should not be used for the purpose of achieving revenge, a situation that would defy all norms of formal legislation and jurisprudence.
Aja Mamie Ceesay, who spoke to this reporter, expressed hope that the TRRC will not fail the victims’ families. The mother of Alhagie Mamour Ceesay, an American of Gambian descent reportedly killed by Yahya Jammeh’s hit team, expected the Commission to help shed light on the atrocities committed under the previous regime.
“There can no peace without justice. Only the truth can help us realize that the situation is over, and we can move forward,” she voiced out.