Sunday, October 22, 2017

#Jammeh2Justice Campaign will be victims-centered

A two-day closed-door meeting was held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel brought together the who’s who of the human rights organizations and lawyer groups from around the world including in-country groupings such as The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations and representatives of the Gambia Bar Association.  

The third day was an open forum that allowed a representative sample of some of Jammeh’s victims to narrate their stories of horror and savagery they suffered at the hands of Jammeh’s henchmen – some of whom are still embedded in the new administration. 

The press was invited, as the final act, to pose questions to members of the Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice - the formal name of the effort #Jammeh2Justice - whose membership comprises of the organizations and individuals who attended the closed-door sessions that discussed strategy for the Campaign to bring Jammeh to book.

Mr. Gaye Sowe of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and Jeggan Grey-Johnson of the Open Society Foundation played a key role in putting together what can aptly be described as a consultative mechanism for all the key players that will be involved in the campaign to bring Jammeh and his accomplices to justice.  It will be an all-inclusive vehicle that will facilitate the Government of Adama Barrow to play a more active and visible role in the process going forward. 

Lifting a page from the Hissene Habre playbook, it was concluded very early in the opening sessions of the meetings that the campaign will be victims-centered with e victims of the 22-year dictatorship success of the campaign will depend on the role that the victims will assign themselves.  In April this year, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch who pursued the case of the Chadian dictator that led to his conviction in Senegal to life imprisonment for similar offenses Jammeh is being accused of, brought to the Gambia Chadian victims who explained to Gambian victims their ordeal and how they narrated their individual stories of rape, torture and other forms of human rights abuses at the hands of Hissene Habre.

In short, victims must start telling their individuals stories to the world as an integral part of any strategy that may be adopted.  In fact, the most moving and impactful part of the three-day gathering was when a dozen or so victims of Yaya Jammeh started telling their stories before a packed audience.  It was as emotional and it was therapeutic an experience for many in the hall.  It was a signal that the Campaign for Bring ex-Gambian Dictator Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice has officially started, at least for us at the
In addition to telling their stories to the world, members of the Victims Center “called upon the Government of The Gambia to exert diplomatic and political leverage to ensure that Yahya Jammeh faces justice with all due process guarantees.”  Members are also committed to ensuring that their voices are heard at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission.
We will add to the list of our priorities the plight of the victims, their families and colleagues by adding our voice to bringing their stories to our audience that is spread across several continents including key Western capitals.   We also intend to bring you regular and reliable updates on some of the active cases currently pending in Europe such as that of Ousman Sonko, former Jammeh Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko pending in Switzerland and whose indictment was made possible by the proactive stance of TRAIL International with Benedict De Moerloose as the lead counsel. 

The list of current members of the Coalition to Bring ex-Dictator Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice includes the following: The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Gambia Bar Association, Gambia Press Union,  Article 19 West Africa, Coalition for Change in Gambia,  EG Justice (Equatorial Guinea), TRIAL International, Human Rights Watch, Guernica 37, La Fondation pour l’egalite des chances en Afrique and Aids Free World.