Henrikas Mickevicius, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, has advised the Gambia government to institute laws against torture and enforced disappearances in country to adequately deal with the crimes.
“We advised as an immediate step that criminal legislation must be amended to include enforced disappearance and torture… Bringing laws against enforced disappearance and torture do not only help lawyers but their absence may also lead to impunity,” Mickevicius said yesterday at the UN library.
The UN Working Group ended a one-week visit to Gambia yesterday after the body received invitation in the country to study the measures adopted by the State to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances and also advised on how to addressed past occurrences under an authoritarian ruler Yahya Jammeh.
Houria Es-Slami, who currently heads the Working Group, and Henrikas Mickevicius, told journalists at a press conference that they have visited sites of possible mass graves at a forest called Tintiba and Tanji.
The Working Group said they have reports of mass graves in The Gambia but added that the country’s investigating authorities have little capacity to exhumed and identify the bodies.
“There are some concerns relating to some regions where the Working Group believes that there are many other burial sites or graves, example around the village of Kanilai and possible mass graves in the army barracks in Yundum,” Houria Es-Slami said.
“There are suspicions in other sites but they need equipment to identify them. The Working Group has met with the panel of missing persons under the justice ministry but this panel has some obstacles in the identification of bodies exhumed from burial sites. So there is no lab and this process is so long for the families.”
They said they have received testimonies from Gambian families about the disappearances of their loved ones.
Mickevicius also asked the Gambian authorities to vet country’s security and other officials and replace former abusers of human rights under the previous system.
The working group also met President Adama Barrow, Justice Minister Bubacarr Tambadou and civil society organisation.
They will table their report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2018.