By Omar Bah
The president of the Gambia Bar Association has told The Standard that there is consensus among stakeholders that former president Yahya Jammeh should be tried outside the country for security reasons.
“There is a consensus that it is perhaps not a great idea to try Jammeh in the Gambia for many reasons, primarily security reasons. It could have the potential to destabilise the country because he still enjoys some support, so with the hybrid court you can try Jammeh outside,” Salieu Taal told The Standard. He said a hybrid court mechanism allows the Gambia to charge Jammeh and those who bear the greatest responsibility in another country just like in the cases of Chadian former president, Hissène Habré and Charlese Taylor of Sierra Leone who were tried in Senegal and the Hague respectively.
“In the case of Jammeh it is better to charge him in another country because the allegations against him cannot be heard in absentia and bringing him back to the Gambia could threaten security in the country,” he stated.
Taal also agrees with the TRRC that the crimes committed by the former regime equate to crimes against humanity.
Taal said the Bar supports a hybrid court mechanism to prosecute Jammeh and his accomplices.
“A hybrid is a mixture of local and international laws. You fuse international law into it that would allow you to try the crimes of torture, enforced disappearance and gives you the option to use Gambian judges and local laws. So, it is a very flexible way of dealing with these issues,” he said.
Taal argued that the laws formulated during the dictatorship do not provide for the prosecution of the crimes committed under it and the country has not domesticated some of the international crimes.
“We also have other challenges regarding the lack of funding of our courts – our judges are still taking notes by hand so you can imagine all these challenges it will be difficult to prosecute these very complex cases that require certain level of prosecution, investigation, judicial and technological capacity, witness protection and victim participation,” he added.
According to Taal, the hybrid court allows a country like the Gambia to design a system that would address all the different needs and requirements.
He said the government’s choice of selecting Ecowas as a partner for the setting up of a hybrid court is welcome news because they played a very crucial role in the country’s transition.
He said the partnership with Ecowas will allow Gambia to bring in international law in the process.
“Once Ecowas take a decision and allow us to establish a hybrid court they will then enter into a treaty with the Gambia to be ratified by the National Assembly. If the treaty is ratified stakeholders will design the modalities on how to start the process of prosecuting. So, the beauty of having a hybrid court is that it gives you the flexibility,” he added.
He said the hybrid court will accord the accused persons a fair hearing.
“It will be a very fair and transparent process so Jammeh will be accorded the due process he denied many Gambians in his 22-year rule,” he said.
Taal added that the TRRC process from the formation of the commission to its conclusion has been very transparent and inclusive.
“The government’s commitment to prosecute those who bear the greatest responsibility is also commended and the Gambia Bar Association is determined to ensure that happens,” he noted.