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‘Jammeh-era offenders may escape death penalty at international court’

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By Tabora Bojang

Gambian lawyer and former bar association president, Salieu Taal, has hinted that perpetrators of human rights violations in the Jammeh era may only face longterm sentences and not the death penalty when taken before an international tribunal, because there, the death penalty is seen as a violation of human rights.

“So obviously those who come under the hybrid court cannot be subjected to the death penalty.” Taal who is a member of joint Gambia-Ecowas Committee on the establishment of an internationalised court was speaking to The Standard in an interview on the sidelines of a public lecture on transitional justice organised by Women’s Association for Victims Empowerment, WAVE.

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This came on the heels of the passing of two bills by the National Assembly paving way for the prosecution of former president Jammeh and his henchmen through local and international courts.

According to Lawyer Taal, sentencing in international courts is usually more lenient than domestic courts, citing the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as examples in which the death penalty was not applied.

“This is because they don’t see the court as only a way of settling scores but other objectives are also considered and not merely high sentences which can sometimes be draconian like the death penalty which Gambia still has in our laws despite recommendations to abolish it,” he added.

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Further asked what sort of crimes are likely to be taken before the proposed international tribunal, Taal said that would be the responsibility of the Special Prosecutor who will lay out different offences that can be charged and those include typical standards such as crimes against humanity, torture, enforced disappearances and sexual and gender-based violence.

Lawyer Taal, who described the Gambian model as innovative, explained that the majority of cases may go before the domestic court, while the international tribunal is likely to deal with the high-level crimes that cannot be tried under domestic courts. This, according to him, entails crimes that involve leaders who actually give instructions to subordinates.

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