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Barrow says gov’t duty-bound to prosecute Jammeh-era crimes

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By Omar Bah

In his statement opening the Legal Year on Sunday, President Adama Barrow said his government is duty-bound to implement the recommendations of the TRRC.

“My government considers the White Paper on the finding of the TRRC as a major part of our national transitional justice process, and we hold ourselves duty-bound to implementing it in a transparent manner,” he said.

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To achieve this, President Barrow added: “We are working with relevant stakeholders and partners to establish a prosecution system to impartially try the perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations mentioned in the report. The White Paper also contains the Government’s expressed decision to set up a Special Prosecution Office mandated to investigate and prosecute accused persons within its terms of reference.”

He said it is worth observing that the prosecution of crimes, such as torture, enforced disappearances, and crimes against humanity, is not specifically provided for under Gambian law.

“To deliver justice, therefore, we propose to develop a special judicial framework and create a hybrid court to try perpetrators whose offenses amount to international crimes. We will pursue this in agreement with our obligation under customary international law,” he added.

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He said the government has also stepped up engagements to respect, protect, and promote the fundamental human rights of people, with specific focus on women, children, and marginalised groups.

Mr Barrow said the Access to Information Act raises the prospects for greater transparency and accountability, adding that the government has facilitated the training of record officers from different ministries to execute their mandates as required within the provisions of the Act.

“My government understands the implications of misinformation and false news fed to the public, and we have full respect for freedom of expression and association under international law. As such, we should all take responsibility to willingly implement the Act and safeguard our democratic institutions. This is essential for sustained peace, order, and national stability,” he added.

Judiciary

He said the Cabinet recently approved the long-awaited Judicial Officers Remuneration and other Entitlements Bill, saying hopefully, the Ministry of Justice will present it to the National Assembly soon.

“Also granted Cabinet approval is the Legal Practitioners’ Amendment Bill. The Bill has provisions to guide the General Legal Counsel on free legal services for needy persons, as well as strengthening the regulation of legal practice,” he added. 

He said the government has re-constituted the Judicial Service Commission to guide him on the appointment of judges and make recommendations on ways of improving the administration and efficiency of the courts.

“The security services have also made improvements on the execution of their duties, and they are aware of the need to operate under the rule of law. Correspondingly, there are ongoing efforts to guarantee the rights of prisoners and improve prison conditions to ease the rehabilitation and re-integration of inmates into society after imprisonment,” he added.

He added that the Judiciary, under the leadership of Chief Justice Hassan B. Jallow, deserves commendation for the achievements registered since the beginning of the transitional justice process.

“They have restored public confidence in our legal system. It is obvious that the successes relating to enforcements of the rule of law, good governance, democracy, and human rights are largely due to the foundations of justice laid by the Judiciary and our resolve to develop a better Gambia,” he said.

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