TAT did report on a public forum recently held at the Sir Dawda Jawara International Conference Center in Bijilo, on the topic: “From Truth to Justice – The Implementation of TRRC Recommendations on Prosecutions”.
The organizers convened the “international conference” to discuss the importance of accountability for the crimes committed during the 1994-2017 period, as well as how and where such prosecutions could be carried out.
We share with you what the panelists said on the importance of accountability, defined as bringing people to account; holding people to account.
“With the impending release of the TRRC report,” it was meant to lay the groundwork on why it is important to have accountability, they said.
People had queried about speaking of a report not yet out, but they were anticipating that the report will recommend action against perpetrators, as required by the TRRC Act, 2017.
The forum was to talk about how important it is to have accountability; and, the focus of the conference was: After the TRRC report, what next?
Accountability is beyond victims; it is about society. And the slogan “Never Again” is to ensure that the culture of impunity will never again find a home in The Gambia.
The organizers said they have engaged in discussions on how to help the Gambia government to have a roadmap on what follows from the submission of the TRRC report.
“We cannot run away from accountability, and how we treat the TRRC report will show. Now, we all agree to hold people accountable. But what kind of accountability mechanism are we asking for?
“Will it be the international process which culminated in the trial and conviction of Hissene Habre, the Special Court for Sierra Leone or prosecution at local level?”
The TRRC heard more than 300 mostly public testimonies, many of which implicated members of the AFPRC junta and APRC government.
The one-day conference held a session on “The importance of accountability in The Gambia”, and the panelists included a human rights lawyer and a human rights activist.
Accountability, they further defined, is taking suspects through the procedures of accounting for their actions.
The UN has recommended that a state has a responsibility to bring perpetrators to account; accused persons have to answer to allegations; and, court judgments must be enforced.
The laws of The Gambia all prohibit the crimes reported to have been committed, and it is the duty of the state to prosecute crimes where there is evidence.
Also, international law, international and regional instruments all require that the reported violations be recognized as crimes, and be punished.
Furthermore, it is important to have accountability for crimes and human rights violations, so as to prevent revenge crimes in society if victims are denied justice.
In addition, there is what they call “the right to truth, and the right to remedy,” and letting people walk free could create room for thoughts of revenge, as people remain traumatized.
Holding perpetrators to account will give confidence to the victims in the justice system. In any case, there is nothing new in prosecuting the crimes alleged, since the state “does it all the time”.
It was noted at the forum that there is talk of reconciliation in the Gambia, and it was asked: “Would it mean reconciliation without accountability and justice?”
The Gambian government will need to show goodwill, as well as muster the political will to deliver justice to the victims.
When a crime is committed or a right is violated, there is s duty on the state to pursue the perpetrator, and reconciliation cannot change that!
Indeed, whether or not victims reconcile with the perpetrators should not stop the course of justice, as when crimes are committed against the state, it has a duty to do something.
Moreover, to give meaning to the “Never Again” slogan of the TRRC, this is an opportunity for the government to send a strong signal that impunity is no longer the order of the day in The Gambia.