By Omar Bah
The chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recently disclosed that government has assured the possible prosecution of some individuals once it gets the TRRC recommendations.
Addressing a question at a news conference on what will be the role of the NHRC in ensuring the implementation of the TRRC recommendations, Emmanuel Joof said: “I was in a meeting recently where the government assured that already plans are in place on how to implement those recommendations. During the meeting the government said definitely there will be people who will be prosecuted.
That is why already there is this lawyer from the Department of State [Stephen J. Rapp] who is looking at the modalities on how to prosecute these people. They are looking around the issues surrounding a Hybrid court, Special Criminal Court or domestic courts. They are looking at all these things and they are coming up with modalities and donors have agreed to even fund it.”
On what role the NHRC will play, Chairperson Joof said: “Though we have not received official correspondence that the NHRC will be tasked with monitoring the implementations, the NHRC will be part and parcel of the implementation of the TRRC recommendations. The NHRC cannot support impunity. We are going to be in the forefront to ensure that the recommendations are implemented by the government.”
Commenting on the killing of Haruna Jatta and the recent reported intrusion of Senegalese forces into the country to arrest Gambians, Joof said: “The commission is not mandated to intervene in issues concerning state-to-state matters.
“You mentioned Haruna Jatta, I personally wrote to the then Attorney General about the issue, but when it comes to the issue of status of forces agreements (SOFA) when you have a force in the country and it is involved in allegations of violations, it is addressed through the same agreement,” he added.
Chairperson Joof faulted the government’s planned reintroduce of Covid-19 restrictions on 8 March, saying, “There might be a political calculation here. We believe that the issue of the lockdown should have come immediately we started recording spikes in cases.”
On the security reform Joof said serious security sector reform is needed to weed out people that have been known or alleged to have committed crimes from the forces.
“If you want to have the same people in the system then we have a problem. So there are a lot of issues that need to be sorted out in this Gambia and the NHRC is part of the solution, but it is not the only solution,” he stressed.
Chairperson Joof said the commission will write to the Inspector General of Police over the recent mysterious killings in Niamina East.
He said the commission has made tremendous progress in 2020 in terms of addressing concerns of human rights violations. Joof said the commission received about 70 complaints, “45 of which don’t fall under our jurisdiction while 17 were admitted and looked into”.
He said the commission’s secretariat is “now fully functional with the appointment of 30 new staff last year”.
He said the commission was tasked by the Ministry of Justice to investigate the circumstances surrounding the stranded Gambian women in Lebanon.
“In terms of monitoring, we have constantly monitored the country’s prisons and police stations to ensure they operate within human rights standards,” he said.
He said the commission has prepared an advisory note on sexual harassment, election act and guidelines on policing public assemblies.
Chairman Joof said the government has “never intervened in the work of the Human Rights Commission”.
“They might not be happy with all the decisions we made but so far they have not attempted to interfere with us. But have been responsive to the concerns we raised both publicly and privately with them,” he said.