By Omar Bah
The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations has called on the government to start the process of requesting for the extradition of former president Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts accused of gross human rights violations.
The victims centre chairman Sheriff Kijera toldThe Standard: “The government should start making some extradition request for some of these fugitives like Jammeh and his cohorts to make sure that they face justice. They should get them from wherever they are hiding to face the accountability mechanisms.”
The 392 witnesses who appeared before the truth commission have testified that at least 214 murders occurred in The Gambia attributed to Jammeh and his agents in addition to enforced disappearances. In an impassioned closing statement at the end of the commission’s public hearings, lead counsel Essa Faal propounded that former president Jammeh should be tried for crimes against humanity for the murders and gross human rights abuses he has been accused of during his 22-year rule.
His call was backed by the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, who tweeted at the time that “justice must happen” in The Gambia.
Mr Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea after he refused to accept his defeat in elections in December 2016.
Victims fear that the Central African country might not be willing to extradite him to face prosecution.
But Kijera contended: “I want to tell President Obiang that Equatorial Guinea cannot run away from its responsibility to hold Jammeh accountable because it is a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane Degrading Treatment. So there is no torture haven anywhere in the world.”
An official at The Gambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has confirmed to The Standard that Banjul does not have an extradition treaty with Malabo.
In 2018, the Equatoguinean president Teodoro Obiang Nguema told journalists that he will not agree to any extradition order for Jammeh.
“We expect as part of the TRRC recommendations that Jammeh and all those who bear the greatest responsibilitities will face the full force of the law. We expect that there will be justice at the end and victims will also be fully compensated through the TRRC reparations programme,” he said.
Mr Kijera urged President Barrow to have the “political will” to fully implement the TRRC recommendations. “The peace and security of this country depend highly on the implementation of the commission’s recommendations. The government should take into account all the atrocities committed by the Jammeh regime and put in place a justice mechanism to try Jammeh and his cohorts of perpetrators,” he said.
He added: “I know it is an election year so we don’t expect that the recommendations will be implemented within a short period of time. We know there is ample evidence gathered by the TRRC but they need to be assessed case by case. It needs expert opinions to form legal bases. So it is going to be a very tedious process before a legal team can do that assessment.”
Consequently, Kijera said the victims centre “is not expecting a court to be set up within a very short period of time” but would want “to see the modalities put in place and commitment from the government that they have taken these things seriously”.