The four day capacity building training organised for Civil Society Organisations and media professionals on transitional justice, which wraps up today with deliberations and interactive sessions on some topical issues as key components of transitional justice mechanisms.
Outreach and Communications, Integrating Ethical Principles and Inclusivity into Truth-seeking process, Guarantees of Non-Recurrence and Institutional Reforms, Transitional Justice and Criminal Prosecutions were topics of discussion and deliberations during yesterday training session.
The participants had discussions on why outreach is important in transitional justice, noting that outreach programs could be used to manage expectations as to how it can be used to encourage people to come forward to give evidence.
The session observed that participation is the lifeblood of any Truth Commission; therefore through outreach and communications, the public will be properly informed so that they can participate in the justice process.
The session also looked at the role of Civil Society organizations in claiming ownership of the process, especially in the establishment of the TRRC as it is a national body that is owned by Gambians.
In the area of integrating ethical principles and inclusivity into truth –seeking processes, gender sensitivity, vulnerable and marginalised groups and victim-centered approach was deliberated on.
Victims’ hearings, statement takings, investigations and research were discussed while emphasis was centered on media coverage of the commission, regular editorials and talk shows on Radio and T V stations.
Inclusive transitional justice would be meaningful when all the people in all levels affected are involved; youth involvement or inclusion in the process is undertaken, such as reaching people at the rural areas/places, involving youth in doing musicals, radio programs, acting dramas and writing poems.
In terms of reconciliation, discussions were held that artistic reconciliation is key, Kora (music) using the griots for story- telling, building of memorials; parks, gardens and using religious and traditional leaders to contribute to the reconciliation process to inform the people through their sermons.
The session also looked at Security Sector Reform, Justice Delivery System and the Legislature.
Other discussions centred on the outcome of the 1st December 2016 presidential elections that ended the 22-year authoritarian rule of Jammeh and ushered in a new democratic dispensation.
The new government under the leadership of President Adama Barrow sought the assistance of a range of development partners including the United Nations, African Union (AU), World Bank (WB), European Union (EU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reform the country’s institutions with a view to restoring democratic governance and the respect for the rule of law.
Among the most important institutions for reform is the security sector, which hitherto was increasingly highhanded, personalized, politicized and was perpetually used to entrench the regime.
Some of the high-handedness was manifested in the form of constant harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention and even extra judicial killings amongst other human right abuses.
Despite the change of government and with some minor restructuring and realignment that has taken place, there is a general mistrust that still exists among the public.
In security services, it was discovered that the legal framework that established and spelt out the mandate and functions of the respective security services are obsolete and inadequate, thus there was need for a thorough review and in some cases a complete overhaul.
There is a lack of functional oversight bodies to regulate the governance (management and operational) matters of the respective security institutions.
The security institutions were found to be operating beyond their legal mandates such as the defunct NIA, leading to operational excesses and high handedness. Some cases were cited on security agents going to the ex-president’s farms for farming which was not in their mandate or in their terms of references.
This coupled with their increased politicization resulted to the loss of public trust and confidence.
In the Justice delivery system, some of the judges and magistrates were enablers in the Ex-dictatorship; the judicial system were distrusted as Jammeh knows what he expects from the court citing cases like the acquittal of Sheriff Hydara of Sangahjor by then Magistrate Ebrima Jaiteh now High Court Judge under Barrow government, the acquittal of Mamburay Njie by the High Court by Justice Abdoulai Mikailu who left the country secretly to save his head because the former dictator was interested in the case, the acquittal of Ousman Badjie, the Gambia ambassador to France and lots more.
Any judge or magistrate who doesn’t play to his tune is either fired or their contracts would not be renewed in case, they are foreign judges.
The judiciary was found to be significantly incapacitated in both human resources and infrastructure.
Lack of sufficient judges and magistrates coupled with the manual recording system contributed to the delay of cases thus leading to backlogs.
The session made some vital suggestions that there should be check and balances in the justice delivery system in the new government to prevent recurrence.
On the legislature, the National Assembly members were considered as rubber stamp members of parliament in former government of Yahya Jammeh citing the citing the April 10th and 11th events, the illegal or illegitimate extension of Ex-President Jammeh for 90 days by the National Assembly after the defeat of the dictator in December 1st 2016 election which ushered in the new government of President Barrow.
It was however disclosed that as in the process of drafting a new Constitution, the draconian laws should either be amended or repealed to conform to international standards.
Author: Bruce Asemota