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Gambian Lawmakers Approve Bills Targeting Human Rights Violations

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The National Assembly Chambers 

By Ramatoulie Jawo 

On Monday, April 22nd, 2024, the Gambian National Assembly approved the Special Prosecutor Office Bill, 2024, and the Special Accountability Mechanism (TRRC) Bill, 2024, following amendments.

Presented during the first extraordinary session of the 2024 legislative year, Attorney General and Minister of Justice Dawda A. Jallow introduced the bills under a certificate of urgency from His Excellency President Adama Barrow, prompting immediate consideration by assembly members.

The bills underwent all three stages of the legislative process and were swiftly passed on the day of their introduction due to the urgency clause, mandating the assembly to promptly address matters brought before them.

The Special Accountability Mechanism(TRRC) Bill,2024, aims to provide a comprehensive framework for prosecuting individuals implicated in serious human rights violations identified by the TRRC between 1994 and 2017.

The Special Prosecutor Office Bill,2024, seeks to establish the office of the Special Prosecutor who shall be tasked with investigating and prosecuting cases involving serious human rights violations identified in the TRRC report from 1994 to 2017.

After the Justice Minister introduced the bills, discussions ensued among members regarding their merits and underlying principles. Hon. Muhammed Kanteh, a National Assembly member representing Busumbala, emphasized the significance of these bills in prosecuting individuals accused of serious human rights violations. He pointed out that relying solely on TRRC reports might not suffice to determine guilt or innocence, hence the necessity of these bills. Additionally, he highlighted that the reports have proposed administrative leave for certain individuals in specific institutions.

Kanteh further emphasized that these bills aim to serve the interests of both victims and alleged perpetrators of such crimes, prioritizing justice over reconciliation.

Hon. Lamin Ceesay, NAM, representing the King West constituency, emphasizes the significance of the Special Prosecutor’s Office Bill. This crucial document aims to establish an office dedicated to investigating the numerous human rights violations experienced by Gambians between 1994 and 2017. He underscores the importance of addressing these issues, as a violation of one person’s rights constitutes a violation of the rights of all humanity.

“Human beings are interrelated such that we depend on each other, and others’ business should be our business. If one person’s right is violated, as good citizens, we should stand firm to speak against the violation of those rights,” he highlighted.

Honorable Suwaibou Touray, the National Assembly Member representing Wuli East, highlighted a positive aspect of the bills: they not only focus on prosecution but also seek to implement additional measures to address past atrocities. This approach aims to achieve justice through accountability.

“What’s great about the bill is that it doesn’t just focus on prosecution. It also provides additional methods to address past atrocities. This approach promotes accountability, justice, and healing for victims, it’s a healing process that will prevent future violations from occurring.”

However, divergent opinions exist among members regarding the arrival of the Bill. Some argue that if such Bills were to be introduced, they should go back to the first regime, given the crimes committed then.

After a thorough examination of the bill throughout the day, the speaker presented it for its third reading and passage. Thirty-four members voted in favor of passing the bill, while three Foni NAMs dissented. Thus, the majority prevailed in the vote.

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