FACTS ON GAMBIA’S TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE

Introduction

Launched on 21st June 2018, the Gambia Transitional Justice Working Group is a civil society-led consortium that seeks to coordinate the activities of non-state actors supporting the Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission and transitional justice.

The consortium consists of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Young Men Christian Association, Gambia Press Union, Future in Our Hands, Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, Gambia Christian Council, Forum for the Advancement of Women Education in Africa (FAWEGAM)and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Based on request for membership the TJ Working Group will be expanded accordingly.

In partnership with the US-based organization, Search for Common Ground with funding support from USAID- Human Rights Support Mechanism (HRSM), the Ministry of Justice, the Association of  Non Governmental Organization (TANGO), the TJ Working Group has produced a fact sheet on frequently asked questions about Gambia Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission and transitional justice field more broadly. This fact sheet is developed by the partners following consultations with the relevant actors in the field of transitional justice.

Given that transitional justice is a new phenomenon in the Gambia and coupled with the fact most Gambians are not conversant with the subject, the TJ Working Group and the Search for Common Ground, deem it prudent to come up with salient issues in the form of “questions and answers” aim at enlightening people on the subject. While the fact sheet might not provide answers to all issues relating to transitional justice, we feel it would pave way for people to understand the TRRC process and concept of transitional justice and thereby encourage them to take ownership of the process.

Audio version of this fact sheet will also be produced and it will be aired on community and commercial radios in Banjul and the provinces.

  1. What does TRRC stand for?

TRRC means Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission

How did Gambia arrive at a TRRC?

The coalition of political parties set up before the December 2016 elections had in its manifesto the need to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address rights abuses and violations of the then regime and also to reconcile Gambians as a result of the ethnic, religious and political divisions brought about by the former regime.

Following the successful election of Adama Barrow as President and the appointment of his cabinet, the Ministry of Justice together with other government institutions and agencies, members of civil society, youth and women’s organisations as well as representatives from the international community conducted nation-wide consultations on the need to establish the Commission. The endorsement from Gambians to establish the commission was overwhelming.

  1. What is Transitional Justice?

Transitional Justice consists of judicial and non-judicial measures designed to redress legacies of human rights abuses. Such measures “include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, traditional justice measures and various kinds of institutional reforms—security reforms, constitution review, human rights promotion and protection”

  1. What is the TRRC about?

TRRC is part of the Gambia Transitional Justice process

  1. What is the mandate of the TRRC?

The mandate of the TRRC is to investigate human rights abuses and violations, promote healing and reconciliation, provide victims an opportunity to relate their own accounts of abuses suffered, and in appropriate cases grant reparations to victims.

The Commission shall at the end of its mandate submit a report containing its findings and recommendation on measures needed to ensure that Never Again do we encounter such rights violations and abuses in The Gambia.

Period covered by the mandate of the TRRC: From July 1994 to January 2017.

  1. What is the composition of the commission?

The TRRC comprises 11 members, all Gambian Nationals.

  1. How are members of the Commission selected and appointed?

The Act requires that, in appointing the Commissioners, the President shall have regard to the geographical, religious, cultural and gender diversity of The Gambia.

The 11 Commissioners are appointed following consultations with the following organisations and officials;

  1. The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations
  2. Gambia Federation of the Disabled
  3. National Youth Council
  4. Female Lawyers’ Association of The Gambia
  5. Gambia Press Union
  6. Victims Organisations in The Gambia
  7. The Gambia Bar Association
  8. Regional Governors
  9. The Chief Executive officers of Banjul City Council and Kanifing Municipal Council.

To ensure transparency and inclusiveness, the Ministry of Justice has issued guidelines for the selection and appointment process. The guidelines provide for;

 5 Commissioners to be appointed from each of the 5 regions.

 1 youth representative to be appointed from amongst three candidates nominated by the National Youth Council; and

5 Commissioners to be appointed from the Greater Banjul Area and the Diaspora. This would be done through an open nomination process.

Before appointment by the President, the final list of 11 names shall be published and the general public shall be invited to make objections with justification, if they so desire, to the appointment of any of the candidates on the list.

  1. How long will the TRRC last?

The initial tenure of the TRRC shall be for two years, but it can be extended by the President.

  1. What is Reparations?

Reparation is making amends for a human right violation one has done by providing payment or other assistance to victims. It does not necessarily mean the recovery of what one has lost or the exact value thereof. For example, it will not bring back the life of those who were killed during repression time. Reparations include compensation, ex-gratia payments, restitution as well as community reparations applicable to communities denied public services or deprived of State funding. Medical and psychological rehabilitation of victims is also an important form of reparations.

The most successful reparations programmes are designed in consultation with affected communities, particularly victims and women groups.

  1. What is the purpose of reparations?

Reparations seek to redress systemic violations of human rights by providing a range of material and symbolic benefits to victims. Reparations constitute a form of justice being done to victims and/or their families in order to restore their human dignity, repair and redress where possible the harm suffered as a result of the state’s failure to protect their rights, and bring to closure past human rights violations and abuses

  1. What are the forms of reparations?

Reparations can take the form of individual, collective, material or symbolic reparations. Reparations can include monetary compensation, medical and psychological services, health care, educational support, return of property or compensation for loss thereof, but also official public apologies, building museums and memorials, establishing days of commemoration, rehabilitation, satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition.

Example: medical support to victim, pension plan, build a clinic, erect a monument; apology letter/acknowledgement.

  1. Who is a Victim?

“Victim” includes-

(a) a person who, individually or together with other persons, suffered harm in the form of physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, pecuniary loss or a substantial impairment of rights-

(i) as a result of a violation or abuse of human rights, or

(ii) as a result of the commission of a crime

(b) a person who, individual or together with other persons, suffered harm in the form of physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, pecuniary loss or a substantial impairment of rights, as a result of such person intervening to assist persons contemplated in paragraph (a); and

(c) the relatives or dependents of such victims as may be determined by the commission.

  1. Who is a Perpetrator of human rights violations and abuses?

Perpetrators are individuals, groups, state authorities, organizations and or institutions that are directly or indirectly involved in the commission of human rights violations and abuses.

  1. What is Amnesty?

Amnesty is an official pardon granted to people that have committed crimes and human rights abuses. A pardon is often granted before any trial or conviction.

  1. Is TRRC a suitable model for The Gambia?

It is suitable model as it shall provide historical records of the human rights abuses of the former regime as well as investigate past abuses to ensure accountability and an end to impunity.

  1. What will happen to the perpetrators?

TRRC will recommend actions for victims and perpetrators.

  1. Will the victims be compensated?

Whether there will be compensation, it will be determined by the TRRC and type of it. The TRRC is empowered to grant reparations to victims. The Commission will grant reparations to a victim upon consideration of the evidence received in order to restore the dignity of the victim

  1. How will reparations be supported?

Reparations will be supported by the creation of a Special Fund.

  1. Where will funding for the TRRC come from?

The funding of the TRRC will come from government, the United Nations and the donor community.

  1. Will the victims of the Jammeh regime receive justice?

The philosophy of putting the TRRC in place is to seek justice for the victims.

  1. Can the TRRC promote national reconciliation?

One of the main objectives is to promote healing and reconciliation. Getting to know the truth with regard to what transpired in the 22 years of Jammeh’s rule and recognizing the rights of victims would serve as a basis for national reconciliation.

  1. Will the TRRC not further divide the country by hurting the emotions of victims?

The TRRC is conceived as a mechanism to provide healing for victims. It is an opportunity to give voice to the victims to tell their stories in a way that the judicial system cannot accord them, provide them with reparations in the broader sense of the word and restore their dignity.The whole approach is victim-centered, meaning putting the interest and welfare of the victims at the core of the process.

  1. The TRRC is taking place within the scope of very broad consultation with Gambians about its mandate and purpose.
  2. Is there a strategy to engage the youth on the Transitional Justice process for advocacy and information dissemination?

All segments of society have been and continued to be engaged in the process. There have been special programmes targeted at the Youth as well as children. Nationwide consultations have been conducted focusing on Youth and children.

Community and focused-group discussions have also involved the youth. The National Youth Council is very much engaged on TRRC activities.

  1. What are the mechanisms for monitoring and follow ups in the TJ process?

Upon receiving the recommendation from the TRRC, the Government is mandated to issue a white paper containing its proposed plan on the implementation of the recommendations.

  1. It is also expected that the National Human Rights Commission will monitor Government’s compliance with its plans to implement the recommendation.
  2. Are there outreach programmes for mass sensitization on the TJ process?

Outreach programmes play a very important role in the activities of the TRRC. The nationwide consultations were preceded by radio programmes throughout the Country. This was also the case for the selection and appointment process of the Commissioners.

The TRRC has a communications and outreach department that has commenced massive sensitization programmes together with other organizations and institutions.

  1. How will the TJ process prevent further rights violations?

The TRRC process is to ensure that Never Again do we have such rights violations repeated. The TRRC is expected to serve as important vehicle to transform the Gambia, reform the security services, the judiciary, the civil service among others.