BY ABDOULIE JOHN
BANJUL, GAMBIA (AP) — Gambia’s former dictator, Yahya Jammeh, should face prosecution for murder, torture and sexual violence, according to a new report by a truth, reconciliation and reparations commission established after he fled into exile five years ago.
The long-awaited report recommends that a special international court be set up to try Jammeh and others in West Africa, but outside of Gambia.
The report, which is based on years of witness testimonies, already had been presented to President Adama Barrow, but its posting online late Friday marked the first time that the complete findings were made public.
Gambian Justice Minister Amadou Dawda Jallow said that the government was “committed to the implementation of the report,” but wouldn’t release a paper before May on how it plans to go forward.
Reed Brody with the International Commission of Jurists said he expected pressure to now mount on Gambia’s leader “to deliver justice without further delay for victims who have already waited five years, and in some cases much longer.”
“There is still a lot that needs to be done, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Yahya Jammeh in a court sooner rather than later,” said Brody, who also played an instrumental role in bringing former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre to trial at a special court in Senegal.
Jammeh, who ruled Gambia for 22 years, lost the 2016 presidential election, but he refused to concede defeat to Barrow. He ultimately took exile in Equatorial Guinea amid threats of a regional military intervention to force him from power.
It remains unclear whether Equatorial Guinean authorities would extradite Jammeh should criminal charges be filed.
Barrow, who ultimately prevailed after the 2016 vote, was reelected earlier this month.
The truth commission was mandated to establish an impartial historical record of abuses committed from July 1994 to January 2017, when Jammeh fled the country. More than two years of hearings that led to the report documented human rights abuses and horrors that occurred under Jammeh’s rule.
Human rights groups say arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and summary executions became the hallmark of the regime. Testimonies made by perpetrators before the truth commission confirmed that some killings were done at Jammeh’s direction.
The truth commission report also said that Jammeh had raped women including Fatou Jallow, who later testified before the truth commission and published a book earlier this year about her ordeal.
Jammeh denies any wrongdoing.