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EQUATORIAL GUINEA MAY BOW TO PRESSURE TO RELEASE JAMMEH

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Brody reacts to gov’t legislations to try former president

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By Omar Bah

With the Gambia government now putting mechanisms to prosecute exiled former president Yahya Jammeh and henchmen, American human rights lawyer Reed Brody has expressed hope that Equatorial Guinea will be open to release Jammeh to be prosecuted if they are requested to do so.

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Last week, the National Assembly passed two bills expected to pave way for the prosecution of crimes committed during the Jammeh regime. The Special Accountability Mechanism (TRRC) Bill and the Special Prosecutors Office Bill are intended to provide frameworks and guiding principles for the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for serious human rights violations including Jammeh himself as recommended by the TRRC. The government is expected to establish a hybrid court to try these crimes.

Speaking on these developments, Brody told The Standard that since the hybrid court will carry the weight of the entire Ecowas region, including countries like Ghana, which lost 44 citizens in the migrant massacre, Nigeria, which also lost an unknown number of migrants, Senegal which lost several citizens and whose territory in Casamance was used as Jammeh’s personal dumping ground of dead bodies, Equatorial Guinea cannot naturally reject any request for Jammeh’s transfer.

“But in order to secure custody over Jammeh, the hybrid court, which will have its own legal personality separate from The Gambia, would presumably have to enter into a specific cooperation agreement with Equatorial Guinea which provides for the transfer of suspects to the court,” he said.

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Brody however advised that former president Yahya Jammeh should be tried outside The Gambia.

“The new hybrid court will have its seat in Banjul with the possibility of detaining suspects and holding trials in third countries, and everyone is thinking that in the case of Jammeh, detention and trial would best be held outside of The Gambia for security reasons,” he said.

He said while that decision will be up to the prosecutor, Jammeh would likely be charged with several of the worst atrocities in one big criminal trial. “These could include the killing of the 59 West African migrants, the death of 41 people in the Presidential Alternative Treatment AIDS Programme, the death of 41 people in the Witch Hunt, the killings of November 10 and 11, 1994, the April 10-11 2000 murders, the execution of 9 death row inmates in April 2012, the enforced disappearance and killing of  Saul Ndow and Mahawa Cham, the murder of Daba Mareneh and his associates, and many individual killings such as  Deyda Hydara, Solo Sandeng, Chief Ebrima Manneh, Dawda Nyassi, Ndure Cham, Haruna Jammeh among others,” Brody said.

Special Prosecutor’s Office

As for the special prosecutor’s office, Brody said this is a hugely important step because it shows that after the powerful hearings of the TRRC, which exposed Gambians to the true extent of the criminality of the Jammeh regime, there is an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly in favor of bringing Jammeh and his henchmen to justice.  “Too many years have been wasted since the TRRC report was published anyway,” he lamented.

He said the government should now move swiftly to hire the Special Prosecutor and set up the office so that the TRRC results can be converted into case-ready criminal files, and to complete the drafting with Ecowas of the statutes of the new hybrid court so that it can be funded and brought into existence as soon as possible.

Also commenting, human rights activist Pa Samba Jow said the Special Prosecutor’s Office is a monumental undertaking for justice.

“The victims have waited for far too long for justice and after the TRRC, and the acceptance of its recommendations by the government. Indeed, President Barrow and his NPP’s alliance with the APRC have left many Gambians, particularly the victims doubtful of his willingness to try Jammeh and his evil gang. We however must not rest on our laurels until Jammeh is charged and tried for the many horrendous crimes he committed against Gambians,” Jow said.

He argued that quite often, people tend to be satisfied with small victories, but for justice to be seen to be done, “we, including the victims must remain resolute and relentless in ensuring that government does the right thing”.

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