By Omar Bah
The Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambadou has said that it is virtually impossible to prosecute everyone who was involved in human rights violation in the past 22-years.
“It’s been a long time, there have been a lot of abuses and violations of human rights committed by so many people during this period,” he told journalists at his office during his second monthly press-briefing.
He said one way of hopefully encouraging truth-telling is to offer the incentives of amnesty.
“But that has been carefully thought about, we have consulted widely with respectable international human rights organisations who have given us their ideas and feedbacks on the TRRC bill,” he said.
He continued: “At this point we intend to incorporate amnesty certainly in the process, but what we want to do is for the commission to recommend for an amnesty and not them granting it themselves. Because we have to bear in mind that we need to respect international law on the granting of amnesty as well,” he added.
The minister said since the office of the attorney general is constitutionally mandated to conduct prosecutions in this country, “we thought it maybe wise to have the commission empowered to only make recommendations. So there will be provisions for the granting of amnesty.”
On the NIA 9 case, the Minister said a motion to increase the charges on the NIA 9 will be tabled in court by the state counsel to increase the counts from 12 to 26.
“I have been informed by the prosecutor, Antouman Gaye that they intend to file a motion to amend the indictment to increase the number of counts in the NIA case to 26 from the initial number of 12 counts,” he said.
The Minister also disclosed that the case will resume on Monday 16 October.
On the TRRC, Minister Tambadou said his office recently conducted a study tour of the Commission, in South Africa to enrich their own understanding of the success and challenges of the different truth commission models.
He said the delegation to South Africa included the Ministry of Justice staff, representative of the Gambia Police Force and a victims group.
“We are now at the final stage of the draft Truth Reconciliation & Repatriation Commission bill. We have spent considerable amount of time on the bill working with experts in the areas of
transitional justice and truth commissions in particular,” he said.
Minister Tambadou said his office has been working closely with representatives of the international center for transitional justice who were in the country last week to complete the review of the TRRC draft bill.
“We have also received comments from international organisations such as amnesty international, human rights watch, Africa group for accountability & justice and the UN,” he explained.
Still on the TRRC, Minister Tambadou said one key feature of the truth and reconciliation and reparation commission is to have all members of the commission as Gambian nationals with the highest standard of integrity.
“That all religious groups in the country shall be represented in the commission, the commission shall also reflect the national character of the Gambia and shall be as representative as possible,” he said.
He said the commission shall also be established for an initial period of two years.
“The work of the TRRC shall be accompanied by a very vigorous public information and outreach program to keep the people informed at all stages of the process,” he explained.
On constitutional review, the Justice Minister said: “In consultation with the office of the chief justice, the Ministry of Justice is now drafting a bill on the establishment of a constitutional review commission which shall be presented before lawmakers at the earlier opportunity, preferably in October.”
He said the establishment of the constitutional review commission by an act of parliament has many advantages.
“Allow me to reiterate that the proposed new constitution of The Gambia shall be one that will reflect faithfully and accurately the views of the generality of Gambians, both at home and abroad,” he said.
He also disclosed that there is no draft constitution yet, “let me make it very clear that, at this point there is no draft constitution at all. What we have is a concept note that will guide the process of constitutional review.”
He said before any constitution is adopted there has to be a national referendum.