By Omar Bah
As he launched his new book “To Catch a Dictator”, human rights lawyer and investigator, Reed Brody, known for pursuing brutal dictators, has expressed confidence that former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh will be extradited from Equatorial Guinea to face prosecution.
From Nicaragua to Chad, Reed has spent his career trying to hold dictators and abusive regimes accountable for their human rights violations. His legal advocacy for victims of atrocities earned him the nickname the “Dictator Hunter”—a moniker he eschews, since he believes the real focus should be on the victims. After successfully helping and advocating for the victims of former Chadian tyrant Hissène Habré who is in jail in Dakar Senegal, Brody has directed his energy to Yahya Jammeh.
Earlier this month, Reed announced the launching of his new book.
Difference between Habré and Jammeh
Commenting on the difference between Hissène Habré and Jammeh cases, Reed said the crimes, the countries, the times, are all very different.
“In Chad in 1990, when Souleymane Guengueng came out of jail and founded a victims’ association, everyone thought he was crazy. After Habré was convicted, Souleymane and I and others travelled to Gambia to meet Jammeh’s victims who were already mobilizing and wanting to know what we could teach them. There are amazing Gambian victims, people like Baba Hydara, Isatou Jammeh, Nana-Jo and Sirra Ndow, Fatoumatta Sandeng, and so many others, who will not give up until they see justice.
“Probably the most complicated thing is that Jammeh is in Equatorial Guinea. But that is one of the geniuses of the ‘hybrid court’ strategy – involving Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and all the countries who lost citizens to Jammeh in the pursuit of justice. It will not be easy for Equatorial Guinea to refuse a request from the entire region,” the respected human rights lawyer told The Standard.
Turning to his new book, Reed said: “Over and over, during my first thirteen years working with the victims on the Habré case, when every step forward seemed to be followed by two steps back, people told us that we had to be either naive or crazy. Other African despots would never let Habré stand trial, they said; his former backers in the United States and France would never stand for it either.
“I wrote the book to show not only that we weren’t crazy but that there is nothing inevitable about brutal tyrants going unpunished for their crimes.”
He said the turning point in his life was his 1984 trip to revolutionary Nicaragua to see a friend who was a priest there.
“Villagers told me terrible stories of schools and farms being burned and of teachers and doctors being shot by the Contras, a US-backed rebel group seeking to undermine the revolution. I just felt this enormous responsibility to do something. I quit my job as a lawyer at the New York Attorney General’s Office and returned to Nicaragua and spent five months investigating.
“My report on the Contra rebels’ atrocities, coming just after Ronald Reagan described the Contras as the ‘moral equivalent of our founding fathers’ made the front page of The New York Times and led to a cut-off in US support for the Contras. Since then, I have been working on uncovering abuses and bringing perpetrators to justice,” he stated.