ECOWAS Parliament Rejects Proposed Bloc’s Role in Gambia’s Special Tribunal

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EX President-Yahya-Jammeh

By Modou S. Joof

On Thursday, the Ecowas Parliament rejected a proposal for the subregional bloc to play a major role in establishing a Special Tribunal to try gross human rights violations allegedly committed during ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

As per the proposal, ECOWAS Member States shall cooperate with the Special Tribunal in the investigation and prosecution of dictatorship-era crimes in Gambia. It shall comply without undue delay with any request for assistance or an order issued by a Judge or a Chamber, including the identification and location of persons; the taking of testimony and the production of evidence; the service of documents; the arrest or detention of persons; the surrender or the transfer of the accused to the Special Tribunal; and the transfer of detained witnesses for the purpose of testimony before the Special Tribunal.

However, a Joint Committee of the Ecowas Parliament rejected the idea, stating that it is “deeply concerned about the peace and stability in West Africa as well as what the impact of establishing the Special Tribunal for The Gambia under the aegis of ECOWAS would have on peace and security in the Country and in the region at large.”

The Committee said that while it recognizes Gambia’s rights to establish a special tribunal to prosecute serious breaches of human rights and bring justice to the victims, it “is not comfortable for ECOWAS to be a party to the establishment of the said Special Tribunal.”

“In the event that the proceedings of the Tribunal faces any challenges or is queried, ECOWAS stands to lose its legitimacy to mediate. This could further exacerbate the issues as there will be nowhere else to run to within the subregion,” the Committee said at its first ordinary session being held in Abuja, Nigeria from 1-24 July 2024.

According to the proposal seen by Alkamba Times, the Gambia will fund the Special Tribunal with voluntary contributions from other states and organizations. The Tribunal will be based in the Gambia but can hold sessions in a third country if necessary.

In April, Gambia’s parliament passed two new bills that would allow for creating a special prosecutor’s office and setting up a special tribunal, which is modeled upon international courts established to adjudicate cases of serious human rights violations.

In December 2021, Gambia’s truth commission found former President Yahya Jammeh and a host of people who served in his government, including security personnel, to be responsible for murder, rape, and torture. Jammeh has lived in exile in Equatorial Guinea since January 2017.

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