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City of Banjul
Sunday, January 17, 2021

SG Marenah explains state of exhumed ‘Jammeh victims’

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By Tabora Bojang

The solicitor general and legal secretary Cherno Marenah has spoken at length on the need for the families of victims killed under Jammeh to be sensitised on the intricacies involved in recovering exhumed bodies to ensure a credible transitional justice process.

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Speaking to The Standard on the sidelines of a four-day training of media personnel on transitional justice, Solicitor Marena who represented the Attorney General and Minister of Justice at the gathering, said until now, the state is yet to conduct any forensic examinations on the bodies of persons exhumed because it does not have the technical capacity to conduct such exercises.

”The government has certainly not forgotten or abandoned the expectations and hopes of the victims but I think patience is the key in the whole process. What we have exhumed were skeletons and not full-blown bodies that you can identify. So if you are to return those bodies that were exhumed together, which ones will you give to which families?” SG Marena said, noting that from a very basic start, you have that problem of identifying which body belongs to which particular human being.

Marena said you don’t just dig up a body or skeleton and return to families based on conjecture, adding that you have to make sure that what you are returning is the body belonging to the right families.
”There is a lot that needs to be in place to not only preserve the kind of evidence that you are going to have but to make sure that you identify the right body because it is even better not to find a body than to give the family a wrong body. We need to have a credible system and forensics because there is no mutual exclusivity between the reconciliation and justice part,” SG Marenah said.

He said the country is coming from a period of almost complete lack of capacity in terms of forensics and investigative techniques relating to the very complex crimes that happened in the country because until now, there was no political will to investigate such heinous crimes.

”Our investigators do not have the capacity to investigate such crimes. Do we just allow them to jump into such investigations without the necessary trainings, capacities and tools to be able to conduct proper and credible investigations? Financial and political commitment is one part of the process but you need a lot of technical capacity, remember you talking about dead bodies, missing persons and unknown graves. Therefore, you need a lot of forensic capacity and the government does not have it,” he said.

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