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Ecowas denies The Gambia’s hybridcourt to try Jammeh – not surprising

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By Rtd Lt Colonel Samsudeen Sarr,
former commander of the GNA

The recently published report that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) parliament rejected The Gambia government’s request to establish an international hybrid court to prosecute former President Jammeh and his accomplices was not surprising to me. The clandestine manner in which our judiciary handled the process raised many questions. The involvement of five Gambian lawyers in this mission was only revealed when the rejection report was published this week. However, the report from ECOWAS headquarters did not disclose the names of these lawyers. I am curious about their identities and their reasons for taking on such a seemingly doomed task. Their failure to recognize the improbability of achieving their objective clearly illustrates their incompetence as lawyers. Why didn’t they include the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Lead Counsel Essa Mbye Faal, who was the driving force behind the commission and the author of the report presented to the ECOWAS parliament? I don’t think there is a more competent lawyer than Mr. Faal or former Justice Minister Abubacarr Baa Tambadou to advocate for the idea they developed under complicated and dubious circumstances. Leaving aside the unconstitutionality of the TRRC’s establishment and the qualifications and competence of its members to investigate crimes committed by the APRC government from 1994 to 2016, the subsequent events following its conclusion continue to weaken rather than strengthen the merits of the case. In other words, many developments since the conclusion of the once-respectable TRRC have highlighted its flaws and even called into question its justification. Who can forget how the TRRC was perceived as a Western-sponsored initiative, with American lawyer and “human rights” activist Reed Brody being the face and spokesperson of the process under the guise of “hunting a dictator”? The latest funding for The Gambia government to pursue the hybrid-court initiative came from the American government, positioning it as the last and only option to try Jammeh and his associates. Otherwise, like the Constitutional Review Commission, the TRRC may also be remembered as another failed commission, with millions of public funds wasted for nothing. Reed Brody, who frequently visited the country and was often based in Dakar, Senegal, has disappeared from the scene for obvious reasons. Since his friend Macky Sall armed Senegalese thugs in 2021 to participate in his security forces’ gunning down and killing over 80 peaceful protesters, Brody has been conspicuously silent and has relocated from Senegal to an unknown destination. It is also well-known that just as Brody aggressively pursued the arrest and trial of Jammeh, French lawyer Juan Branco, representing Prime Minister Ousman Sonko, has been equally zealous in gathering empirical evidence for the international arrest and prosecution of former President Macky Sall for crimes against humanity. Notably, Brody, a Jew, has never voiced objections to the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians. However, don’t you think that if ECOWAS supports The Gambia’s request for the creation of a hybrid court against Jammeh, Senegal will follow suit against Macky Sall, who was and likely still is President Barrow’s ally? Is the justice ministry considering this? Considering the West’s unwavering support of what many see as the genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza, how can The Gambia continue to trust the sincerity of the Western world in dictating The Gambia’s legal, moral, and ethical endeavors? If I am not mistaken, Justice Minister Dawda Jallow was recently among the international delegation at the ICJ supporting the “Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel)” where Israel is accused of committing genocide against the Palestinians in their war against Hamas. How do we reconcile the West’s position against the rest of the world with such apparent double standards? Moreover, who hasn’t heard the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan’s remarks about an Israeli prosecutor warning him against ordering the arrest of Benjamin Netanyahu and some members of his cabinet for committing war crimes in Gaza? Mr. Khan lamented that he was advised to accept that the ICC was exclusively meant for “African leaders and thugs like President Putin and not Western leaders.” (No wonder nothing happened to George Bush and Tony Blair for their war crimes in Iraq). After that statement from Prosecutor Karim Khan, why would ECOWAS, the AU, or any international organization be keen on a Western-orchestrated demand to create a hybrid court for any African leader, including former President Jammeh? This is certainly food for thought for our five Gambian lawyers from ECOWAS parliament. Lastly, I must share a credible Gambian friend’s insights about the current situation of the “Junglers.” Their coerced testimonies at the TRRC constitute the bulk of evidence to prosecute Jammeh and his collaborators in a hybrid court. These individuals are now questioning the legality of their indefinite incarceration, which hinges on satisfying the TRRC’s demands to confess publicly to the crimes they committed under Jammeh’s orders. They argue that their compliance was driven primarily by the desire for freedom rather than a genuine confession. Regardless of the court type, I believe that the “Junglers'” testimony at the TRRC, given under conditions of illegal detention and without legal support or advice, is not tenable. Only time will tell.

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