The Lead Counsel of Gambia’s truth commission Essa Faal has accused the exiled Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh of committing crimes against humanity, Freedom Newspaper can report. Faal, a former prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), made the accusations on Friday during the closing of the TRRC public hearings. “In the process Mr. Chair, I have just sat down here and draw up a list of those of who are killed attributed to Jammeh and his forces and Mr. Chair, my count or our count came to 214 people, 214 people, in a small country like Gambia, that bothers or smacks of crime against humanity,” Faal remarked.
In a speech that captivated the nation’s attention, Faal, catalogued series of human rights violation cases that he said, have been perpetrated by Jammeh and his former despotic administration. He says Jammeh’s rule was marred by blood birth and massive rights violations.
Soldiers accused of coup under Jammeh’s rule were summarily executed, student protesters massacred, journalists killed and exiled, Faal said. Faal added that Jammeh was also responsible for the murder of Gambia’s veteran journalist Deyda Hydara, journalist Chief Manneh, the November 11 alleged coupists, and other murder cases.
Jammeh was very protective of his throne. He has not even spared his relatives. He had killed five of them after accusing them of spiritual warfare, the commission heard.
Faal says Jammeh was not only a charlatan, but a quack, who had not even spared foreign nationals.
“We heard how the West African migrants were butchered in several places around the country, 67 of them, initially we thought they were 34, then 44, then 57, and ultimately 67 people butchered, and the government went on a campaign to cover this up, well, we have heard even today the witch hunting exercise that was ordered by Jammeh 41 people died,” Faal told the commission.
According to Faal, Jammeh was in the business of protecting people, who killed for him. He also says the former dictator was running a gangster regime, by seizing people’s properties, looting the treasury, subjugating and killing his opponents.
The TRRC Lead counsel also says torture was not only endemic under Jammeh’s rule, but Jammeh himself was taking part in the torture of detainees.
“Jammeh created these institutions, wherein torture was the name of the game, torture was the order of the day. It was his star chamber; we heard the NIA officers saying that torture was almost certain to happen in cases where he is involved. In fact, we heard from someone so close to Jammeh, who told us sometimes he will come disguised and participate in torture,” Faal stated, adding that Jammeh also had agents who used to video tape torture and execution of his perceived opponents.
The question running on the minds of Gambians is: Will Barrow implement the TRRC report? But Faal says Jammeh cannot escape Justice. He says if Jammeh is not prosecuted in The Gambia, he could face justice outside The Gambia.
“All these things that I am saying tells me, crime against humanity, crimes against humanity, crimes against humanity, and the forum to deal with that is not only limited in Gambia, it could be Gambia, it could be Ghana, it could be West Africa, it could somewhere in Africa, it could be the ICC. So, no matter how people deny, no matter how one can control what may happen in Gambia, that same institution cannot control what happens outside,” Faal remarked.
Faal cited the case of the former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, who was granted sanctuary in Senegal, but only to be charged and convicted for crimes against humanity. He says Jammeh too could also be charged for crimes against humanity. Faal insisted that Jammeh must face justice.
Several witnesses have testified before the commission. The commission has two months to submit its report to President Adama Barrow. The President has six months under Gambian law to implement the recommendations of the commission.
The commission has so far documented what it called widespread rights violations committed under Jammeh’s rule.
“The testimonies heard during the 871 days of public hearings brought pain and bewilderment to the population. They could not believe that the atrocities they were hearing from witnesses could occur in their country. A land of peaceful coexistence! A society imbued with tolerance of the highest order!,” the TRRC Chairman Lamin Sise noted.
Sise says arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances and sexual and gender-based violence were the hallmark of Jammeh’s decades long rule.
“The commission of these atrocities by Jammeh and his cohorts achieved the desired effect of instilling fear among the Gambian population. It also gave them time and space to pillage the resources of the country,” said Mr. Sise.
During his rule, Jammeh was operating a crocodile pond at his native village of Kanilai. The commission says it had received evidence of Jammeh feeding his crocodiles with people killed during his rule for ritual purposes.
“The crocodiles in Kanilai lay submerged in a dirty pond while the peacocks in Jammeh’s palatial grounds cry out ceaselessly and purportedly for their departed master. The chaos we recently saw at these grounds in Kanilai must not be the chaos in our country in the wake of the demise of the Jammeh regime,” Sise warns.
Three hundred and ninety-two witnesses have testified before the commission, majority of whom, according to the commission, were innocent victims of atrocities meted out to them by the former administration.
Jammeh has been living in exile in Equatorial Guinea since January of 2017. His supporters have been calling for his home return.
Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai