When The Standard broke the story that the truth commission has recommended amnesty for Sana Sabally, former vice-chairman of the junta, there were widespread condemnations within and outside The Gambia.
Even though the approval for amnesty was itself dismissed, an emphasised point was that the victims were not involved or consulted in the recommendation for amnesty.
The Victims Centre issued a statement Saturday rejecting the recommendation and asked The Gambia government to ignore amnesty for the former AFPRC Junta 2. The TRRC has preached a victim-centred approach from public hearings to reparations but, in this particular case, accepting Sana’s application for amnesty without consulting the victims means forcing forgiveness on them, especially knowing Sana confessed to multiple killings of his own colleagues. This is wrong even on the surface. If the TRRC had involved victims in the process, this would have been totally avoided and any recommendation for amnesty would have been agreed to by the victims. This is the approach expected of the TRRC.
On a slightly different note, the Gambia Armed Forces announced the release of two Junglers; Warrant Officer Ismaila Jammeh and Warrant Officer Alieu Jeng. This surprised many considering the duo has been detained since 2017. The army said their prolonged detention without trial informed their decision to release the former soldiers which, again, was surprising. We don’t think the army just found out that the rights of these soldiers were being violated by detaining them for over five years without trial.
However, the army, unlike the TRRC, didn’t just release them.
A statement from Defence Headquarters said “GAF, in a drive to show respect for the fundamental rights of victims of the allegedly perpetrated crimes and to prevent speculations or unfounded rumours, invited the board of directors of The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations to the Defence Headquarters in Banjul for discussions on issues surrounding the release of the concern soldiers. During that meeting both parties consented to the release of WO 1 Jammeh Ismail and WO 1 Jeng Alieu on stern bail terms until the white paper is officially published.”
The Gambia Armed Forces must be commended for inviting victims to make a decision as important as this. Imagine, if the army had just gone ahead an released them without seeking the consent of victims. The uproar would be similar to the one about Sana Sabally. Therefore, the Army High Command deserves praise for this cooperative and consultative approach to issues of human rights violations.