By Aisha Tamba
The lead counsel at the truth commission, Essa Faal has said the TRRC will only focus on the human rights violations of the 30th December attack and not the crime, because it is not the commission’s mandate to investigate crimes.
On December 30, 2014, gunmen attacked the State House of The Gambia, the official presidential residence. The government said three of them died in an exchange of fire.
With the gunmen failing to consolidate control, the coup failed and President Jammeh who was away returned the following day.
Essa Faal said the commission’s mandate is not to investigate crimes but rights violations.
“Questions have been asked as to why the commission did not make the 30th December attack a theme for investigations and I think we have to be brutally honest to the events that happened in this country. Much as most Gambians would want to believe that as at 30th December 2014, Jammeh’s government was illegitimate in the sense that it was a brutally oppressive system against Gambians,
it was still the lawful government of The Gambia. So an attack on the government would still be treason under the laws of the country which makes 30th December a crime under the laws of the country even though for some people, it could be seen as a legitimate attack on an illegitimate government. But that is a matter for debate and the commission is not necessarily concerned about the politics of that. We should just remain focused on the law and the law is that the attack was a crime and our mandate was not necessarily to investigate crimes but human rights violations and therefore we cannot really focus on 30th December attack just like we did not on the Farafenni attack or the Kartong attack,” Mr Faal said.
However, he said that the aftermath of the 30th December attack led to a lot of rights violations committed by the government, as family members of suspected perpetrators were arrested and detained and sometimes tortured over an extended period of time.
“That is punishment by association. You punish a person simply because the person is related to someone else. So this aspect of the 30th December attack has been investigated but we are also considering the violations of rights of direct perpetrators of 30th December and we are looking into possibility of calling witnesses on that particular subject,” he explained.
He said this is not to trivialize the significance of 30th December in political history of The Gambia. “No, we are just staying true and focus to the mandate which is to investigate the human rights violations. So 30th December would serve as context into our investigations of what happened to those who are suspected to have been participants or related to the suspected participants but that aspect has extensively been dealt with; we have called a number of witnesses,” he concluded.