By Omar Bah
The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations has expressed concerns over trying former president Yahya Jammeh at the International Criminal Court, preferring instead a hybrid court.
The victims centre chairman, Sheriff Kijera disclosed to The Standard: “We should be mindful of taking Yahya Jammeh to the ICC because though it is a good idea it is equally not in our advantage because the ICC could only look into cases from 2002 as far as Gambia is concerned. What about the cases from July 1994 to 2002? They are equally important.”
Mr Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea after he refused to accept his defeat in the December 2016 presidential election.
According to the Gambia’s truth commission TRRC, at least 214 murders occurred in the country attributed to Jammeh and his agents in addition to enforced disappearances.
In an impassioned closing statement at the end of the commission’s public hearings, lead counsel Essa Faal propounded that former president Jammeh should be tried for crimes against humanity for the murders and gross human rights abuses he has been accused of during his 22-year rule.
His observations seem to attract the sympathy of newly appointed chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, who tweeted at the time that “justice must happen” in The Gambia.
But the head of the victims center Kijera contended: “It is quite important to get the support of the incoming ICC prosecutor but the cases involving the massacre of November 11, April 10-11 victims, Koro Ceesay, Almamo Manneh and others cannot be left out.
“To have a hybrid court within or outside of The Gambia will be more beneficial than trying Yahya Jammeh before the ICC. I know it is an option that one can explore but also you have to know that the maximum sentence for the ICC is 35 years. We have to take into account all these factors.”
He said trying Jammeh in Ghana or any other West African country “is the best option and that is what we are working towards especially with the Jammeh2Justice campaign and all the other stakeholders that are part of the process”.
“We have also started going out to garner international support especially from countries like Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo whose citizens were killed in the 2005 migrant massacre,” Kijera added.