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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

AG says Jammeh will be tried in person

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By Tabora Bojang

Justice minister Dawda Jallow has hinted that former president Yahya Jammeh who is in exile in Equatorial Guinea, will be tried in person before the Ecowas hybrid court.

The Gambia is partnering with Ecowas to set up a hybrid tribunal to prosecute Jammeh and other perpetrators of gross human rights violations in The Gambia between July 1994 and January 2017.

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A joint technical committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ecowas Court, Gambia Bar Association, the judiciary, and victim-led organisations was formally inaugurated yesterday to work on legal frameworks, a funding plan, ratification and implementation plans for the setting up of an internationalised court.

Responding to concerns as to whether Jammeh will be tried in absentia since there is no extradition treaty between Banjul and Malabo, Justice Minister Jallow said: “These kinds of trials have not happened in absentia. So he [Jammeh] will be tried in person. In his presence. We do not have an extradition treaty with Equatorial Guinea but I know when we get to that bridge we will know how to cross it. This is going to be an international court and our partner [Ecowas] is a 16 to15 member states organisation and the court belongs to all of us after it is set up. So an extradition treaty with any member state will do but there may be other ways of getting him [Jammeh] to justice when we get there. At the moment we are focused more on setting up where we are going to take him, how we are going to take him there and to answer what questions?”

The committee has been given 18 weeks to complete its work.

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According to the justice minister, the committee will come up with treaties that needed to be signed by both The Gambia and Ecowas for the operationalisation of the hybrid court.

This treaty, he added, will be ratified domestically for it to be implemented. 

“Once the legal framework is put in place, the implementation plan is drawn and the budget is drawn, then we will do recruitment and sourcing the experts who are going to man the court. The court will be made up of a trial chamber and an appeals chamber,” he explained.

He however declined to say how soon the court will be in full operation to prosecute the Jammeh-era crimes.

“We are committed and we want to deliver as soon as possible. We don’t want to raise unrealistic expectations or put speed at the expense of justice. You don’t want to charge somebody, arraign the person and because of your ill preparation, the person is acquitted and discharged, ” he noted.

Ecowas resident representative in The Gambia, Miatta Lily French, disclosed that the hybrid court will have the jurisdiction over international crimes and crimes not covered under Gambian law.

She said the court will be based in The Gambia with possibility to move proceedings to a third country based on expediency.

“The trials will provide some sort of comfort for victims who may have been affected by violations but could not tell their stories, that justice has been served on their behalf,” Ambassador Miatta stated.

Victims organisations representative at The Gambia-Ecowas joint committee, Priscilla Yagu Ceesay, said victims welcomed the initiative as it will expedite the prosecution of crimes that do not have provisions in Gambian laws.

She however reiterated the need to ensure the voices of the victims remain at the forefront of the processes.

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