By Omar Bah
The heat is on former president Yahya Jammeh. Last Friday TRRC lead counsel Essa Faal made a compelling case before the Gambian people for him to be tried for crimes against humanity.
The following day, the incoming chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, tweeted that “justice must happen” in The Gambia in reference to Mr Faal’s call.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, herself a Gambian, had earlier stated that the court could not investigate or prosecute Jammeh because the scope and degree of the crimes he was accused of did not meet the gravity threshold for the ICC to intervene.
But in an interview with Senegal’s state broadcaster RTS aired yesterday, Mrs Bensouda said given what was unearthed by the TRRC at the end of its public hearings last week, accusations against Jammeh indeed meet the crimes against humanity threshold and that the former Gambian president could now be investigated and tried.
She stated: “You see, what we have known today about The Gambia, no one knew it when Jammeh was here. Even at the time of his departure, people were not aware of these crimes; no one suspected such things could have happened in this country. If what we know today is what we had known before the TRRC, we would have been saying something else today. But now that the TRRC has unearthed the evidence needed, it is the responsibility of The Gambia to present their case before the ICC. If they come up with their evidence, then the ICC can act. But for now, ICC is waiting to see what The Gambia would do. If The Gambia files its case, then the court can act on it but should The Gambia fail to do what it should, then the ICC would see what it should do.”
Bensouda, who had served as a justice minister under Jammeh came under a barrage of criticisms for not filing charges against Jammeh, added: “Many a times people would say that Fatou is a Gambian, and she should come and take Jammeh. The ICC doesn’t operate like that. As a prosecutor, I have responsibilities to ensure that I look at how the ICC Statute operates and follow it. This is why I always tell people they shouldn’t feel that I am being soft with The Gambia because of my Gambian citizenship. The issue is whatever I am doing it has to follow due process”.