Rights groups, victims discuss Bai Lowe trial in Germany

755

By Alagie Manneh

Human rights organisations and victims of former president Yahya Jammeh and other stakeholders yesterday discussed next week’s proposed trial of ‘death squad’ member Bai Lowe in Germany as well as the wider efforts to seek accountability for the Jammeh-era crimes.

Moderated by activist Reed Brody, the meeting lasted a little over an hour with the participation of TRIAL International, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters without Borders and the Gambia Bar Association.

ADVERTISEMENT

Addressing the virtual meeting, Baba Hydara, a joint plaintiff in the case and son of slain prominent journalist Deyda Hydara, said: “Everyone involved in my dad’s murder will face justice, just like Bai Lowe is about to. We know that Bai Lowe was only a small player in the murder of my dad because the order came from the top. So, it’s very serious when you have Jammeh sitting in Equatorial Guinea and nothing is happening to him. We want to see Jammeh himself brought to justice.”

Turning to events back home, Mr Hydara said the victims are aware of the appointments of alleged Jammeh enablers like Fabakary Tombong Jatta and Seedy Njie, who were appointed last week as Speaker and deputy Speaker, respectively, of the sixth legislature by President Barrow.

“We cannot allow the recommendations of the TRRC to go in vain,” Mr Hydara added. 

Amie Sillah, daughter of Ousman Silllah, the lawyer of former majority leader Baba Jobe who survived an attempt on his life in 2003, said the trial of Lowe has given her family a renewed hope for justice.

“Our dad is a great man who served The Gambia and is a former high court judge in the 1990s and president of the Gambia Bar Association. He was a giver who gave lots of pro bono cases. We are very grateful that he survived the attack on his life,” she stated.

According to Ms Sillah, her father remains traumatised and afflicted by dementia. “He cannot do anything for himself,” Ms Sillah added. “We hope this is the beginning of the justice that he deserves.”

Fatoumata Sandeng, spokesperson of Jammeh 2 Justice campaign, said the accountability process for these crimes in The Gambia does not offer hope for justice.

“We were baffled that the TRRC recommended amnesty for Sana [Sabally] who showed no remorse for the killings he had done. The second issue is the release of the Junglers. We had expected to see The Gambia set an example with these people, but we are shocked that the Junglers who had come to the TRRC and confessed to crimes are now being released in The Gambia. This is shocking to victims. Another Jammeh enablers are being named as Speaker and deputy Speaker of the National Assembly. Speaker of the National Assembly means he is the third in command in The Gambia. When the president and the vice president are not there, you have this guy as the leader of The Gambia. That is how serious the situation is right now,” Ms Sandeng rued. 

Reed Brody said the trial will be juxtaposed by documents, Bai Lowe’s numerous interviews, and scripts from the TRRC.

“The hope is also that this will kind of raise the bar [for accountability and justice for these crimes]. When trials start to happen outside, the possibility of trials happening inside is very high,” he said.

Arne Bardelle of the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), said the length of the trial will depend on the conduct of the accused and his lawyers.

When asked if Mr Lowe can strike a plea deal by testifying against Jammeh and the other Junglers, he said: “The German court of criminal procedure allows for plea deals, but I don’t think that is going to be relevant in this case.”

The president of the Gambia Bar Association, Salieu Taal, and Babaka Tracy Mputu of TRIAL were among the speakers.

Mr Lowe was charged by German authorities following his arrest in March 20121. He has since been in custody. His trial in the Higher Regional Court of Celle is expected to last at least until the beginning of 2023. If convicted, Mr Lowe could face up to life in prison.