By Omar Bah
Former President Jammeh’s victims in The Gambia, Ghana and a hosts of international NGOs have written to ask that the UN, AU and Ecowas to reaffirm that the exiled former president should not be exempted from efforts to ensure accountability for alleged grave crimes committed during his rule.
The letter, addressed to the UN and others by the human rights organizations, reads: “The former president and members of his political party have made repeated references to an ‘agreement’ with your institutions that purportedly gave him assurances that if he left office and the country following his December 2016 election defeat, he would not be prosecuted. The APRC has announced that it will be writing to you to seek enforcement of the agreement and its alleged immunity guarantee.”
The group said the unsigned Joint Declaration on the political situation in The Gambia of January 21, 2017, speaks of “the dignity, respect, security and rights of former President Jammeh, as a citizen, a party leader and a former head of state as provided for and guaranteed by the 1997 Gambian Constitution and other Laws of The Gambia.
“It contains no assurance against prosecution, nor should it, as amnesties for international crimes, including torture and crimes against humanity, run counter to international law, including the rights of victims to redress,” the group added.
The group also reminded the UN, AU and Ecowas that the government of The Gambia, which was never consulted on the Joint Declaration and has repeatedly rejected it, has noted that Jammeh’s record of “state-orchestrated disappearances, kidnappings, murders and incommunicado detentions, routine torture and incarcerations of perceived political enemies, journalists and members of the armed and security forces” is “being case for potential criminal prosecution.”
“Jammeh’s return to The Gambia under a misimpression that he enjoys an exemption from prosecution could also pose a threat to the stability of the country and its ongoing-transition to democracy. On one hand, the Gambian government has stated it “cannot guarantee … President Jammeh’s safety and security were he to return to the Gambia,” the group added.
The group also raised concern over Ousman Rambo Jatta, deputy APRC leader, declaration that any attempt to arrest Jammeh should he return to the country would lead to “bloodshed.”
“It should be noted that Mr. Jatta recently publicly threatened a TRRC witness who testified that she had been raped by then-president Jammeh. Given the history of threats, Jammeh’s return under protection from prosecution could also derail the ongoing truth-telling process, as other victims could be reluctant to testify about abuses, they may have suffered at the hands of or at the instigation of ex-president Jammeh,” the group stated.
They further stated that: “Jammeh, like all persons, is entitled to due process, including the presumption of innocence in any criminal proceedings. He should not, however, be permitted to stand behind the authority of the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS to avoid justice for alleged crimes against humanity including killings, torture and rape. We respectfully ask you to support the government of the Gambia and reject any request to enforce an alleged immunity guarantee.”