Gambia: Campaign to bring former president Yahya Jammeh to Justice
(Banjul, The Gambia, October 21, 2017) – Victims of the former Gambian government of Yahya Jammeh and Gambian and international activists today announced the formation of a campaign to bring Jammeh and his leading accomplices to justice.
Jammeh fled The Gambia in January 2017 for exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing presidential elections to current president Adama Barrow. In 22 years of autocratic rule, Jammeh’s government used killings, “disappearances,” torture, intimidation, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests to suppress dissent and preserve its grip on power.
“We will do whatever it takes in the pursuit of justice, no matter how long it takes” said Fatoumatta Sandeng, daughter of opposition leader Solo Sandeng whose murder in April 2016 galvanized opposition to the Jammeh government, and who is spokesperson for the new “Campaign to Bring Yahya Jammeh and his Accomplices to Justice”. “All that matters is that Jammeh and his accomplices are held accountable for what they did to the Gambian people.”
The objective of the Campaign is the fair trial for alleged crimes of Yahya Jammeh, as well as of those who bear the greatest responsibility in the abuses of his government. The Coalition said it would also seek to strengthen the voice of the victims in Gambia’s current transitional process and to help the Gambian government recover Jammeh’s assets.
“Given what so many of us experienced and the depths to which Jammeh took The Gambia, we have a moral duty to ensure that justice is done,” said Amadou Scattred Janneh, who was sentenced to life imprisonment under Jammeh for making T-shirts with the slogan “End Dictatorship Now.” “By bringing Jammeh to justice, we also serve notice to tyrants across the continent that we the people are determined to fight impunity.”
Some of the other victims at the Campaign’s inaugural press briefing were Imam Baba Leigh, a Muslim cleric who was savagely tortured and detained incommunicado for five months in 2012-2013; Baba Hydra, son of Deyda Hydra, editor of the Point newspaper and president of the Gambia Press Union, who was murdered in 2004; Nana-Jo Ndow whose father, the opponent Saul Ndow disappeared in 2013 and is presumed to have been killed, and Ayeesha Jammeh, whose father Haruna Jammeh, and her sister Marcie, cousins of Yahya Jammeh disappeared in 2005.
Also speaking at the conference were Tutu Alicante, head of EG Justice, the leading organization campaigning for human rights in Equatorial Guinea, and Bénédict de Moerloose of TRIAL International which was instrumental in the arrest of Jammeh’s former Interior Minister Ousman Sonko in Switzerland, where he faces trial on torture charges.
“As a people living for almost four decades under brutal dictatorship, we Equatoguineans feel compelled to try to help our Gambian brothers and sisters get the justice that we have been denied,” said Tutu Alicante, Head of EG Justice: the leading organization campaigning for human rights in Equatorial Guinea. “The success of the Gambian victims will be the success of all Africans.”
The Campaign said that it would seek Jammeh’s extradition for trial in The Gambia, but that this could take several years as political, security and institutional concerns must first be addressed before Jammeh could get a fair trial that would help promote the rule of law in The Gambia.
The groups participating in the Campaign include: The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Article 19 West Africa, Coalition for Change in Gambia, TANGO, EG Justice (Equatorial Guinea), TRIAL International (Switzerland), Human Rights Watch, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, Aids-Free World and La Fondation pour l’égalité des chances en Afrique. Reed Brody, the Human Rights Watch lawyer instrumental in the campaign to bring to justice the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, is advising the Campaign.
The campaign is supported in part by the Fondation pour l’égalité des chances en Afrique. “This campaign sends a strong message: no African leader suspected of crimes against humanity should think that he is above the law or out of reach of his victims,” said Mohamed Bouamatou of Mauritania, president of the Foundation.