By Omar Bah
The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations has joined ten other human rights groups to call for an international investigation into the 2005 massacre of African migrants.
The chairperson of the victim’s centre, Sheriff Kijera has confirmed to The Standard yesterday that the centre has consented to the need for an international inquiry into the killings of the migrants in The Gambia.
The other groups included ACILA, African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED), Amnesty International Ghana, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Ghana Centre for Democratic Development, Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Human Rights Watch, Media Foundation for West Africa, POS Foundation, and TRIAL International.
The families of more than 50 Ghanaian and other West African migrants killed in The Gambia and Senegal 15 years ago have yet to learn the full truth and obtain justice concerning the massacre.
“A credible international investigation is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of the 2005 massacre of West African migrants and create the conditions to bring those responsible to justice. Until now, information has come out in dribs and drabs, year after year, from different sources,” said Emeline Escafit, legal adviser at TRIAL International.
On July 22, 2005, Gambia security forces arrested migrants, who were bound for Europe, after their boat landed in Gambia, on suspicion of involvement in a coup attempt. All the migrants, including about 44 Ghanaians, 9 Nigerians, 2 Togolese, and nationals of Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, plus 1 Gambian, were allegedly killed in Gambia or taken across the border into Senegal and shot and their bodies dumped in wells.
The groups said while several Gambian soldiers have confessed to the murders and said they acted on Jammeh’s orders, the chain of events leading to the killings is unclear.
The groups added that because the crimes took place across two countries, Gambia and Senegal, involved victims from six countries, and a primary suspect, Jammeh, now resides in Equatorial Guinea, an international investigation would be best placed to uncover all the facts.
They said that if neither Gambia nor another country like Ghana would conduct a transnational investigation, they should support an independent inquiry that could investigate all the countries concerned.
In 2008, the UN and the ECOWAS formed a joint investigative team which produced a report in April 2009. The UN wrote that the report concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the deaths and disappearances, blaming it on “rogue” elements in Gambia’s security services “acting on their own.”
But the groups said that even though the UN and ECOWAS had delayed the search for justice for 10 years by wrongly clearing Jammeh in 2009, the fall of Jammeh combined with the new revelations provide the opportunity to move forward.
“The UN and ECOWAS can make a real contribution now by releasing their report and working with Gambia, Ghana, and Senegal to uncover exactly how this crime was committed so that the victims can have justice at long last,“ said Reed Brody, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch and an author of the 2018 report. “With Jammeh out of power, getting to the truth is just a matter of political will.”
Meanwhile, the TRRC has announced that, in addition to the Junglers who testified in July 2019, it will hold hearings on the migrants’ case this year.