Despite significant progress by the Truth Commission in investigating the human rights violations of the former ruler Yahya Jammeh, Gambia still struggles with impunity for crimes committed under the former ruler, said the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations.
The Victim Center made a submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2019 to prepare for the Universal Periodic Review of The Gambia. The review is currently underway in Geneva.
The Victim Center’s report highlights several areas of concern such as the persistent practice of excessive use of force by police, torture in detention and ongoing inhumane prison conditions.
While commending the work of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) since January 2019, the Victims’ Center points to persisting challenges in addressing human rights violations under the former regime.
“The creation of the TRRC and the strong implementation of its mandate are key in understanding the crimes of the past. But other important measures are required to live-up to the Never Again slogan,” said Zainab Lowe of the Victims’ Center addressing the United Nations in Geneva.
“It has become clear that in our country a small group of individuals was responsible for most of the crimes. We did not have interethnic conflicts in The Gambia and therefore reconciliation is much less needed than a strong justice system”.
The Victims’ Center was invited by to speak at the United Nations, along with other civil society organizations to present their views on the human rights situation and provide recommendations ahead of a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in November 2019, which will examine actions they have taken to improve the human rights in Gambia.
“We expect the same willingness of the government as it showed towards the TRRC regarding other areas, such as the building the judicial system and reforming the security sector” said Abdou Aziz Barrow, son of Basirou Barrow.
The Victims’ Center also expressed the need for improved freedom of association, opinion and expression, notably regarding youth organizations, human rights defenders and whistle blowers.
Finally, the report addressed issues of corruption and misspending of public funds, in a context where victims still live in dire conditions.