Today, Monday 7 December, 2020, the TRRC will begin its 18th session of public hearings. As at the end of the 17th session, the Commission had heard testimonies from 300 witnesses. Of these, 231 were male and 69 were female. Out of the total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission so far, 191 were victims and 51 were self-confessed perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons. Twenty-eight witnesses have testified via video link from the Gambian Diaspora. These hearings also included several protected witnesses and closed door testimonies.
As we continue our public hearings on the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), a component of the theme on institutional hearings which begun on 22 October 2020, somemay wonder why the TRRC is devoting such detailed focus and time on the NIA. The Commission has so far heard testimonies from 28 witnesses during the NIA hearings.
The TRRC was not established in a post-armed conflict environment in The Gambia. The establishment of such post-conflict commissions have traditionally been the culmination of peace negotiations which call for the creation of truth-seeking and reconciliation mechanism. While such mechanism is indeed a central objective of the TRRC as enshrined in the 2017 Act, it was created in a post-authoritarian transition.
The institutions of the State enabled the dictatorship to thrive for over two decades. It is imperative, therefore, that the TRRC examine thoroughly the weaknesses and failures of the relevant state institutions, especially the NIA, that facilitated or enabled the Jammeh regime to violate, on a massive scale, the human rights of the citizens of The Gambia. The NIA, from the testimonies of victims that have either appeared before the Commission or submitted written statements, was the primary instrument of fear and terror of the dictatorship.
A thorough examination of the institutional failures should inform the TRRC in the formulation of its recommendations regarding reforms called for pursuant to Section 13 (a) (i) of the TRRC Act, 2017.
The new institutions of the state should have the confidence of the citizens who previously only had reasons to distrust such institutions and those entrusted to protect and defend their fundamental rights.
As we begin this session, the last public hearing of what has clearly been a very difficult year for all of us, the TRRC remains committed to the execution of its mandate to the best of its ability. The TRRC tremendously appreciates the solid support from the population in general. The Commission will find it immensely helpful to receive more information on the remaining themes in its work plan, including the enforced disappearances of people like Chief Ebrima Manneh, Saul Ndow, and Mahawa Cham among others. Also information regarding the massacre of an estimated 56 West African migrants in 2005. We therefore continue to urge all persons – especially victims of any human rights violations that occurred between July 1994 and January 2017 – to please come forward and share their information or experiences with the Commission. Please rest assured that your confidentiality will be strictly guarded by the Commission.
Finally, we continue to crave the public’s support and understanding as we move closer to the end of our mandate on 30 June, 2021.