‘Put Victims At The Centre Of The Transitional Justice Process’

By Abdoulie John

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, Fabián Salvioli, wrapped up his Gambia visit Wednesday with a call on authorities to make sure that victims take centre stage in the transitional justice process.

“I urge the government to put victims at the centre of the transitional process and to provide survivors with urgent medical and psychological assistance,” said the UN expert in a news release issued shortly after the end of a press conference held at UN House in Cape Point, some 6 km away from Banjul.

Salvioli jetted into the tiny West African nation on November 20th for a seven-day visit, which was punctuated by series of consultations with government officials, victims, civil soiciety groups, religious and traditional leaders etc. He also made field visits to massive crime scenes located in Banjul, Kotu, Kololi, Kanifing, Fajara, Jambur, Yundum and Kanilai.

The UN Human rights expert warned Gambian authorities against taking initiatives that might only end up re-victimising a good number of Gambians who were subject to arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

Gambia is transitioning from dictatorship to democracy and new authorities have vowed to right the wrongs of the past. However, the release of 4 members of Yahya Jammeh’s hit squad has left many victims who were pushing for justice feeling betrayed.

“Even religious leaders have expressed the need for justice and accountability,” Fabián Salvioli told journalists while indicating that those responsible of enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings should be prosecuted.

“It is possible that the government is waiting for the truth commission to finish its work, to move forward in the justice process,” he said. But he was quick to add: “In the meantime, Gambia gov’t should send clear signals that perpetrators will be prosecuted.”

In a preliminary report seen by this medium, the Special Rapporteur reminded Gambian authorities on the need to “investigate and prosecute officials and members of paramilitary groups implicated in human rights violations, in accordance with international standards.”

Meanwhile, United Nations’ Fabián Salvioli confided to reporters that he did not have the opportunity to interact with local people in Kanilai, who are with the belief that the table has been turned on them and they are now facing ‘collective punishment.’

“Basically, we went to Kanilai to visit the barracks, the place where former dictator Jammeh used to live. We also visited specific areas where victims of extra-judicial killings are believed to be buried as suggested by the Junglers,” he said. “We also made a stop at the place where the Junglers were trained.”

Asked as to whether he was able to locate the place where two Americans of Gambian descent (Alhagie Namur Ceesay and Ebou Jove) were buried, he responded in the negative. He then assured that recommendations will be made for the necessary technical support to be provided in order to uncover where the corpses have been interred…


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