Banjul, 27 November 2019
1.1 Visit Summary
From 20 to 27 November 2019, I conducted an official visit to the Gambia. I would like to thank the Government of the Gambia for extending the invitation to visit the country, as well as for their cooperation during the realization of the visit. I would also like to thank the United Nations in Gambia and the Regional Office for West Africa of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) for their support in preparation and during the visit.
The objective of the visit was to see and assess the measures adopted by the Gambian authorities in the fields of truth, justice, reparations, memory and guarantees on non-recurrence - the pillars of my mandate - to address the serious human rights violations committed during the 22 years of authoritarian regime under former President Yahya Jammeh. The visit sought to develop a broad view of the different initiatives that were adopted, identify best-practices, determine problems and challenges, and provide recommendations.
During my trip to the Gambia, I visited Banjul, Kotu, Kololi, Fajara, Kanifing, Jambur, Yundum and Kanilai. The visit provided an opportunity to meet with State officials, victims, civil society organizations, religious and traditional leaders, as well as representatives from United Nations agencies, international and regional organizations, and the diplomatic community.
I also had the opportunity to make field visits to sites of mass graves, exhumations locations, and sites were torture, summary executions and enforced disappearances are believed to have taken place, such as the Yudum Barracks, the Kanilai Barracks and the former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Headquarters, including infamous torture chamber “Bambadinka”.
Over the course of the visit, I met with the Vice-President of the Gambia and with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Interior; the Ministry of Finance; the National Human Rights Commission; the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC); the Constitutional Review Commission; the Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Activities of Public Bodies, Enterprises and Offices; the Chief Justice and other members of the judiciary; the Attorney General and Solicitor General; the National Assembly and its selected Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters; the National Security Office; the State Security Service/ former National Security Agency; the Armed Forces; the Police Force; the National Youth Council; and the Transitional Justice Technical Committee.
I also met with victims and families of victims of torture, enforced disappearances, summary executions, sexual violence, and arbitrary detention, as well as victims of former President Jammeh’s witch-hunt campaign and of his Alternative AIDS Treatment Programme.
A detailed report of my visit will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2020.
1.2 General Impressions
Former President Yahya Jammeh ruled the country from 1994 until January 2017 when Mr. Adama Barrow was sworn in as President following national elections. During Jammeh’s tenure, the country was characterized by disregard for the rule of law, infringements of human rights and civil liberties, and the existence of a repressive State apparatus accused of committing gross human rights violations against anyone considered to be critical of or threatening to the regime, including mass arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, poisoning, and forced discontinuation of antiretroviral and conventional medical treatment for HIV/AIDS patients. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA), “Jammeh’s paramilitary hit-squad the ‘Junglers’, and armed group “the Green Boys” were most often associated with these violations, but abuses were also reported in the police, prison services and the armed forces.
Since taking office, the new administration has initiated, with support and guidance from the international community, a domestic process aimed at addressing past abuses and preventing their recurrence. Early on the government has engaged with international organizations and donors to design a number of transitional justice measures. With the aim of assisting in the implementation of a transitional justice process tailored to the needs and characteristics of the Gambia, a series of assessments were undertaken to support the domestic process. In 2017, a national consultation process was organized by the Ministry of Justice in partnership with several stakeholders in the country. The views of the public were incorporated in the drafting of the TRRC Bill and in the adoption of a transitional justice strategy for the country. The establishment of a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has been so far the most interesting and successful initiative in this regard. Other relevant actions include the creation of a Constitutional Review Commission, the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, and embarking in a mapping exercise that would guide the adoption of a much needed security sector and civil service reform aimed at preventing the recurrence of past state led-violence.
However, measures remain to be implemented in several other areas. Prosecutions have been initiated in a handful of cases and social uproar has been generated by the release of junglers who confessed serious human rights violations at the TRRC. While I recognize the political will expressed by the Government to provide reparations, I am concerned that victims have not yet received them, especially rehabilitation for those suffering serious physical consequences from the violations sustained, and that the reparations policy has not yet been adequately consulted with victims. Memorialization initiatives are virtually non-existent and institutional reforms are still at an embryonic stage.
I will share my preliminary observations and recommendations below on the issues of truth, justice, reparation, memory, and guarantees of non-recurrence.
Truth seeking initiatives
President Barrow established two truth-seeking commissions to investigate economic crimes and human rights abuses committed during the Jammeh’s regime, the Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Activities of Public Bodies, Enterprises and Offices (known as Janneh Commission) and the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
The former was established in June 2017 and submitted its final report to the Government after 18 months in March 2019. While society was looking forward to access the full report only a succinct version of it (the “whitepaper”) was released online by the Government. This caused dissatisfaction, as only certain recommendations where included. The full version of the report is available for purchase.
The TRRC was established by Act of the National Assembly in December 2017, and its members were sworn into office on 15 October 2018. The purpose of the TRRC is to investigate all human rights violations that occurred from July 1994 to January 2017 and to prevent their repetition. The TRRC’s notes states that in pursuit of these aims, the institution will “facilitate community and national reconciliation, launch civic education efforts on peace and justice, design individual and communal reparations, and shape the scope of future prosecutions and amnesties”.
Collection of testimony and census of victims
The TRRC has conducted 11 public hearings, received over 500 statements and showcased over 130 witnesses since its establishment. The TRRC broadcasts its hearings on live television and radio, which gain it immediate popularity in Gambian society. These hearings have had a positive impact in terms of allowing Gambians to know the truth and understand the scope of the violations committed during the past regime. It has shocked and moved a society who is waking up to the full extent of its violent past. But its success has also become its weakness. As Gambian society follows live every development at the TRRC, the victims fear that narrating their stories in front of the country and their own communities may expose them and their families to stigmatization and sometimes reprisals. This is particularly true for victims of sexual and gender based violence, people living with HIV/AIDS, persons accused of witchcraft, and former militaries. For others, it is simply too hard to share their sufferings with such a large audience. While the TRRC has set in place confidentiality and anonymity mechanisms for taking testimonies, these are not clearly understood by the community of victims, too many of whom have decided not to testify.. The need for truth, investigations and criminal prosecutions, reparation, and preservation of historical memory are entirely dependent on the accuracy of the information collected by the Commission. It is imperative that these confidential mechanisms are clearly and repeatedly explained to all, making use of the vast outreach power of live TRRC’s transmissions.
Besides the reception of testimonies, a census of victims is essential to ensure accuracy about the number of victims in the Gambia and the violations they have suffered, it is also essential for the adequate design of reparation policies. The TRRC’s mechanisms for registration and census of victims must be clearly understood by all society. Reaching out to all victims must be one of the TRRC’s central missions in this regard. The TRRC is uniquely placed in time and space to undertake this vital task.
The TRRC has also set in place mechanisms to prevent intimidation of victims and witnesses, I would like to congratulate the TRRC’s members for the emphasis placed during the hearings on ensuring that victims and witnesses do not receive reprisals or intimidations for having provided their testimonies to the Commission. I also congratulate them for the remarkable work carried out so far.
The search and identification of disappeared persons
The search and identification of disappeared persons has proven difficult so far, the remains of only a handful of persons have been recovered through exhumations in Yundum Barracks, Tangi and Tintiba Forest. These successful exhumations mostly took place in 2017. Exhumations are carried out by a TRRC’s specialized team. The team is comprised of 4 persons who have receiving specialized training. However, the human and material resources of the team are scarce, and they are in need of specialized equipment , which allows them to map vast areas for exhumation, and continuous training. . Moreover, some victims have expressed concern about the way in which the exhumations and the chain of custody of the evidence were carried out in the aforementioned cases. In addition, Gambia does not possess a forensic lab, which forced the TRRC’s forensic team to transfer the remains for testing abroad. The lack of a a certified forensic team and lab represents a significant obstacle to search and criminal investigation goals.
It is important for the national authorities to take on these tasks. Additionally, the States and agencies providing international cooperation can play an important role by giving technical collaboration and training to build these highly complex capacities.
In accordance with article 15 (1) (i) of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission Act, the Commission has the power to identify and recommend for prosecution persons who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and abuses. However, it is unclear whether and how the Commission will share collected information and evidence with the police, prosecutors and the competent authorities with respect to exhumations, forensic analysis and DNA testing. The TRRC Act also contains provisions allowing for amnesties under certain circumstances and only excluding from amnesty acts that may qualify as crimes against humanity. I recall the Government of the Gambia that international human rights law impedes the use of amnesties not only for crimes against humanity but for all gross human rights violations such as torture, summary executions and enforced disappearances, among others. The Human Rights Committee has observed that the State may not relieve perpetrators of such violations from personal responsibility through amnesties and prior legal immunities1 . The TRRC should in no case recommend amnesties that contravene international obligations.
The government has yet to establish the manner or mechanisms to prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations and only a handful of proceedings have been started since the transition started in 2017. A case has been opened against 9 former NIA agents accused of involvement in the killing of Solo Sandeng, a political activist who died in detention in April 2016. Despite some progress, the prosecutor team struggles with a lack of material resources to carry out its work and the case has progressed at a slow pace2 . Moreover, the case has been recently stalled by the adoption of delaying tactics by the defense.
I received concerning reports that the government has released or dropped charges against several alleged perpetrators. In August 2018, four “Junglers” were released from detention. On 28 October 2018, the Ministry of Justice announced the withdrawal of charges against several officials from the NIA. On 3 January 2019, a soldier accused of killing a female soldier in 2011, was released from prison. On 8 January 2019, the President Barrow announced that he would discontinue prosecution of police officers responsible for the death of demonstrators in June 2018 in the village of Faraba Banta.
The release of junglers after confessing the commission of gross human rights violations before the TRRC, shocked Gambian society and has eroded people’s trust in the TRRC process and in the Government’s will to conduct an effective transitional justice. Moreover, people expressed fear of having junglers walking freely along Gambian streets. For victims, this represented a form of re-victimization. Over the course of my visit, virtually every person with whom I met has strongly criticized and expressed concern about this decision. The government justified their release based on the fact that the junglers had been detained for two years without charges. It is concerning to see that decisions of this type can erode the Government’s political capital, risking the country’s incipient but prosperous transitional justice process.
In my meetings with victims, civil society, international organizations, the diplomatic community and some government officials, I have heard repeated concerns about the lack of progress in the area of accountability for past abuses. Each of these actors have insisted in the importance that criminal prosecutions will have in the healing and reconciliation of Gambians, and in the transitional justice process as a whole. This is in line with the results of a recent survey according to which 68 percent of Gambians believe that “perpetrators of crimes and human-rights abuses during Jammeh’s regime should be tried in court.”3
It is unclear if the lack of progress in this field is due to lack of political will, or the result of a phasing exercise in which truth (through the TRRC proceedings) will precede criminal investigations and prosecutions. It may be also, to some extent, consequence of an ineffective judicial system which is highly inadequate for the challenge facing it (as described in section 6).
The aforementioned actors have also expressed concern at the perceived attempt by the Government, including through the TRRC, to force reconciliation and forgiveness and to prioritize this aspect over accountability. Several social actors have indicated how they felt that Gambians are being pressured to do so, despite their convictions (including their traditional and religious believes) to the contrary. In this regard, many interviewees, including victims, noted that reconciliation will not be possible insofar as there is impunity, and that justice and accountability should come before any reconciliation is sought.
I would like to stress that forgiveness is a matter of personal conviction which cannot, and should not, be imposed on victims or members of society. Whether a person has forgiven a crime or not, the State remains obliged to sanction it. Moreover, reconciliation is not forgiveness, but the reconstruction of trust between the State -the guarantor of individual rights- and society. This trust can only be achieved when the State upholds its legal and institutional obligations. The enforcement of criminal sanctions is a vital tool for the reconciliation of society with the State, and does not hinder the personal forgiveness of victims.
It is worth recalling here what another victim said, “Gambia is not a divided society where atrocities where committed amongst co-nationals. Here, only a few perpetrators attacked the rest of the society”. Notwithstanding the difficulties mentioned above, prosecutions in these conditions should not be as unsurmountable as it has been for divided societies coming out of protracted conflicts in other parts of the world.
Numerous reports also indicate that the government has made insufficient efforts to secure and archive documentary and on-site evidence of past violations, which could be used in criminal proceedings. An alarming example is that the headquarters of the National Security Agency (NIA), now informally called State Security Service (SIS), was refurbished in 2017, which could have led to the destruction of possible evidence. The TRRC visited the SIS headquarters in 2018, and ordered it to stop the renovationsand ceased documentation. I visited three detention cells, including alleged Bambadinka, which look like they have not been renovated.
A comprehensive transitional justice process cannot be achieved if one of its vital components is not pursued. While an overhaul of the judicial system needs to be carried out for a democratic and transitional justice process to effectively take place in the Gambia, this cannot be taken as an impediment to move forward with criminal investigations and prosecutions, or to set up the conditions required for this undertaking. The prosecution and effective sanctioning of perpetrators of gross human rights violations is a State obligation of immediate effect and the government needs to take urgent measures to initiate this long awaited process, with the support of the international community.
The TRRC has mandate to design a reparations policy and to grant reparations to victims. The National Strategy Document for Transitional Justice in the Gambia identifies five components of a reparation policy: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition. This components aim at providing full reparation to victims. The government informed that a reparation trust fund would be created, which victims can access if they register as victims at the TRRC. In October 2019, the government informed that the reparations trust fund of the TRRC received USD $1 million (50 million dalasis) to be distributed as reparations to victims. The sum was obtained from the sale of Jammeh’s assets.
The TRRC has a mechanism in place to provide rehabilitation to victims, such as access to health care and education, and has informed that this has been provided to those who have given statements or testimonies to the commission. However, the implementation of this scheme has been limited so far, due to financial constraints. Victims with whom I met have indicated that they have not yet received support, rehabilitation or compensation from the State.
The TRRC has a mandate to establish recommendations with regards to reparations and has developed a reparations policy, which is not yet finalized. Victims and civil society have expressed discontent with the lack of consultation in the development of the reparation policy. They noted that they have not been able to see the draft policy, provide inputs on it, or engage in its design in any meaningful way.
I was present at the TRRC’s witch-hunt hearings and was shocked to hear the violations perpetrated against innocent victims who were forced to drink poisonous concoctions that killed some and left survivors with serious medical conditions and disabilities. I have also received harrowing reports of the violations suffered by victims of Jammeh’s Alternative AIDS Treatment Programme, which led to many deaths and irreversible damages on the health and recovery of the survivors.
These and other victims have been suffering mentally, emotionally and physically for years. So have their families. Victims and their families have also been left stigmatized, isolated and without access to sources of livelihood and essential services for them and their children. I express my solidarity with all of them. It is imperative that the Government provides urgent rehabilitation measures to all survivors, particularly medical and psychosocial care. This cannot wait until the reparations policy is designed and implemented.
During my visit, I did not become aware of any initiatives taken by the government in the field of memorialization. The TRRC informed that memorialization processes will be included as part of the recommendations in the commission’s final report. Government officials also informed about the study trip conducted by officials and TRRC staff to learn from Rwanda’s memorialization processes. It is important that memorialization initiatives feature predominantly in the country’s transitional justice process, as a form of satisfaction to victims and as a guarantee of non-recurrence for Gambian society.
6. Guarantees of Non-Recurrence
A set of institutional, constitutional and legal reforms have been initiated by the current administration aimed at building the infrastructure required in a democratic state were violations as the ones seen in the recent past do not recur.
Human rights framework
A National Human Rights Commission has been established by the NHRC Act of December 2017 and its members have taken-up functions in February 2019. The NHRC has mandate to monitor, receive, and investigate future human rights violations by State and Non-State officials since December 2017, as well as continuing past crimes. The selected commissioners had the opportunity to receive training abroad and begin drafting foundational working documents to operationalize the Commission’s work. The government informed that the human rights policy framework will be strengthened with a Standing Human Rights Committee within the National Assembly, and a National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow-Up to assist in the reporting to human rights mechanisms.
Since the change of regime, the Gambia has ratified several human rights treaties including the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or punishment; the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty; and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Gambia is yet to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and other instruments. It has also failed to domesticate the international treaties ratified, which has a negative impact on the effective realization of human rights in the country. In particular, the country has not yet criminalized enforced disappearances and torture, and has not abolished the death penalty, despite having assumed the commitment internationally.
Security sector reform
The Government has initiated, in collaboration with regional and international organizations, a mapping process for the design of a security sector reform. Following an assessment on the existing institutions conducted in 2017, the Office of National Security developed a National Security Policy and a National Security Strategy, which has been approved earlier this year.
The National Strategy Document for Transitional Justice in the Gambia noted that vetting and ejecting the individuals responsible for abuses from public office is an integral part of the process of restoring the trust of the victims and the society in state institutions, and that this should involve using individual, case-by-case merits rather than collectively dismissing people. 4 Until today, no vetting exercise has taken place in the affected institutions. Moreover, as noted by multiple stakeholders during the visit, individuals accused of perpetrating or enabling human rights abuses continue to work within civil and security services and well-known high-level enablers or perpetrators of the former regime were appointed as ministerial upper ranks, advisors, ambassadors and in other government positions.
In addition, the security sector institutions are still formally governed by the regulations of the previous regime. The SIS (former NIA) is still governed by the military decrees enacted in the prior regime. SIS officers have indicated that they refrain
de facto from exercising some of the excessive powers granted by the dated decrees. In the case of the security agencies ascribed to the Ministry of Interior, including police, prisons, immigration and fire services, an “informal” general code of conduct and standard operational procedures has been drafted while awaiting the official reform of the institutions’ governing legislation. However, besides being informal, it is unclear if or how this is used by officials in this institution.
Moreover, strong and independent civil oversight mechanisms are still lacking in the security, intelligence and defense services.
As noted by several stakeholders, including in the National Strategy Document for Transitional Justice in the Gambia, the current state of the Gambia’s judiciary requires rebuilding due to its perceived lack of independence, alleged corrupt practices, and its sever lack of adequate human and material resources. Members of the judiciary are scarce and insufficiently trained, basic equipment and infrastructure is lacking, and its independence is highly questioned. These shortcomings hinder the judiciary’s capacity to carry out criminal prosecutions and may jeopardize the achievement of justice for past abuses as well as the adjudication in connection to present and future offences. I have observed with concern the lack of attention given to the revamping of the judicial system to prepare it for a democratic transition founded on the rule of law. This should become a priority for the government, as well as for the international community that wishes to support Gambia’s transitional justice process.
I would like to restate here that the resource and capacity constraints do not excuse the judiciary and the ministry of justice from engaging in the much needed and awaited accountability for abuses of the past regime.
Constitutional and legal reform
The government has embarked in a process of reforming its legal framework to prevent past abuses. It established a Constitutional Review Commission to review the 1997 Constitution, for which it conducted extensive public consultations at the national level and with the diaspora. A draft new constitution was presented to the public in November 2019 for further consultation. Concerns have been raised about certain provisions in the draft constitution which are not in line with international standards, for example those in relation to restrictions to the right to life. In addition, the draft does not abolish the death penalty, despite the country’s commitment as state party to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and grants international human rights treaties only an interpretative role.
The government also initiated the reform of the Criminal Code and the Criminal Proceedings Code. Civil society organizations noted with concern that they have not been able to see a draft criminal code that has been recently circulated and only received it upon request to the authorities. A validation workshop of the draft code is planned for 29-31 October. Concerns have been expressed by stakeholders that the revised legislation has so far retained the death penalty and the criminalization of same sex relations, and the fact that torture and enforced disappearances continue not to be criminalized in these instruments. Reports received during the visit indicate that a separate legislation is being planned to criminalize torture.
Engagement and consultation with victims
During my visit, I heard numerous concerns about the insufficient engagement and consultation with victims. While some aspects of the transitional justice process have featured extensive consultation with civil society and victims, such as the national consultations of 2017, the drafting of the TRRC Act, the work of the Constitutional Review Commission, and the design of a security sector reform, victims have not driven the transitional justice process and have been left out in processes and decisions that directly affect them, such as in the design of a national reparations policy. For a transitional justice process to be legitimate and effective, it must, above all, be victim-centered. However, as a representative from civil society noted, in the transitional justice process of the Gambia victims appear to be only an afterthought. This needs to be urgently remedied.
During the 8 days of visit, I was shocked and horrified by the testimonies I heard from victims and their relatives. Their narratives provided a harrowing account of the violations perpetrated in campaigns aimed at repressing dissent, terrorizing the population, instilling a climate of fear, gaining political support, and simply undertaking acts of gracious horror and inhumanity. But they mostly tell the story of the unsurmountable suffering of political opponents, persons expressing dissenting voices or perceived as a threat to the regime, media workers, women and girls, students, LGBTI persons, persons living with HIV/AIDS, and persons accused of being witches. That suffering continues to haunt surviving victims and families who today are affected by serious physical and mental health problems, stigma, fear and deprivation. The victims and their families are in urgent need of assistance from a State that so far has not paid enough attention to their needs and to their views.
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the progress achieved so far, and to urge the Gambian State and the three branches of Government, to continue to advance in the pending aspects on the transitional justice agenda, including justice, reparations and institutional reform. Although I understand the need of phasing some of these measures, it is essential that the government gives an unequivocal sign to society of its commitment towards a comprehensive and holistic transitional justice process aimed at addressing past abuses, preventing their recurrence and establishing the foundations of a strong and stable democratic society, which, as mentioned in the TRRC’s slogan, will “never again” see the abuses of the past.
There is a long road ahead. The effective search for truth on all past violations, the search for the disappeared, the strengthening of the judiciary, criminal and other sanctions against perpetrators, full reparations for the victims, the reform of state and security institutions molded over 22 years of authoritarianism, and the recognition and recollection of a common historical memory, will be critical in recovering confidence in the State and its institutions and trust among all members of society - the sign of a truly reconciled society in its path to healing, peace, and development.
In relation to the provisional observations of my visit, I wish to share the following recommendations for the Gambian authorities and the international community, to advance the transitional justice agenda in the country.
a. In developing its transitional justice process, the State should:
- Harmonize and domesticate all ratified international legal instruments to make the rights therein justiciable and enforceable, including by criminalizing the crimes of torture and enforced disappearances and abolishing the death penalty - by removing it from the Constitution. Decriminalize same sex relations. Ensure that the constitutional review is undertaken in full compliance with international human rights standards.
- Provide the judiciary with capacity building and technical and human resources to undertake effective, prompt and adequate criminal investigations and prosecutions into the violations of the past regime. Consider developing a criminal accountability entity, such as a Special Court, to carry out criminal investigations and prosecution of those crimes.
- Investigate and prosecute officials and members of paramilitary groups implicated in human rights violations, in accordance with international standards. Consider adopting a prosecutorial strategy that ensures an effective and timely prosecution of those responsible.
- Amnesties or pardons should not be recommend or granted, as prescribed by international law.
- Develop witness and victim protection schemes that provide psychosocial support and accommodation in order to protect their identities and confidentiality and to avoid re-victimization.
- Provide capacity building and develop technical and human resources on forensic investigations, including the one placed currently within the TRRC. This capacity-building should include training and certification for personnel on forensic anthropology, in accordance with international standards. The possibility of establishing an internationally-certified autonomous and independent forensic science institute should be considered.
- Provide support to accelerate the identification of new mass graves and provide the necessary equipment to detect their location, as in several areas the identification of mass graves was not possible. Engage with the international community to seek technical assistance in this respect.
- Secure and archive documentary and on-site evidence of past violations, which could be used in criminal proceedings.
- Adopt a comprehensive reparations policy aimed at providing effective and timely reparation to all categories of victims, including compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction, restitution, and guarantees of non-recurrence. The reparation programme should be adopted in full consultation with victims, be fully compliant with international standards, and include a gender dimension. Assistance programs should be specialized to serve victims of severe violations. Provide immediate medical and psychosocial assistance to survivors.
- The TRRC should adopt all necessary measures to promote the universal registration of victims in order to know the full extent of victimhood in the country and provide them with reparation.
- Provide a safe environment for the registration of victims and ensure adequate dissemination of information regarding the anonymity and confidentiality mechanisms of the TRRC, in order to address victim’s fears of social stigmatization, particularly amongst victims of sexual violence and witch-hunt.
- The registration of victims for reparations should continue beyond the conclusion of the work of the TRRC to ensure all victims are part of the reparations programme, even if they decide to inscribe at a later stage. Consider establishing a standing body to manage reparations.
- Adopt comprehensive memorialization policies, such as the establishment and maintenance of public sites for this purpose, including at military or police facilities where persons were allegedly killed, tortured or disappeared; commemoration days, dissemination in the media and in the field of arts, and inclusion into the educational curricula.
- Adopt programs to train public officials, the judiciary, security, intelligence and armed forces on human rights, conditions for the use of force, historical memory, including an examination of the State responsibility in the grave violations of human rights in the past regime.
- Proceed without delay to vet the institutions involved in the violations of the past regime and suspend the personnel suspected of committing crimes, pending final decisions from the TRRC or courts of law. Reform the legal and procedural framework of the security services, intelligence and armed forces and establish strong and independent civil oversight mechanisms.
- Publicly instruct security services and intelligence personnel to refrain from exercising excessive detention and intelligence powers pending the reform of their governing regulations.
b. In supporting the transitional justice process in the Gambia, the international community should:
- The governments and agencies providing international cooperation should aid the work of victims' organizations and other civil society groups working on transitional justice issues.
- The governments and agencies that provide international cooperation should offer technical collaboration and assistance to build technical capacities on criminal investigations and prosecutions, and on forensic anthropology and genetics in order to facilitate accountability for past violations aid in the collection of victim testimonies and search for the disappeared.
- The governments and agencies providing international cooperation should support the provision of reparations, reform of the judiciary, and continue assisting with the reform of the security sector.
1/ CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add. 1326 May 2004, paragraph 18.
2/ National Strategy Document for Transitional Justice in the Gambia, December 2018, page. 70
3/ Afrobaromter dispatch No. 249
4/ National Strategy Document for Transitional Justice in the Gambia, op. cit., pages 23 and 24