Statement by the Chair, Dr. Lamin J. Sise, at the opening of the Thirteenth Session of the TRRC’s public hearings,March 16, 2020
On Thursday, March 5, 2020 the TRRC concluded its twelfth three-week session of public hearings which focused on the arbitrary arrest and detention of public servants and private persons. During that session, 14 witnesses appeared before the Commission. The total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission since the commencement of the public hearings on January 7, 2019 is now 217. The witnesses included 54 women, 40, alleged perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons, as well as some expert witnesses. Twenty-five Gambian Diaspora witnesses also testified via video link.
We begin the thirteenth session today which will end on Thursday, April 2. Approximately two weeks of this session will be focused on hearing evidence of unlawful attacks against of road users by Jammeh’s convoys. The remaining period will be used to commence the institutional hearing on the prison system and the violation of the rights of the inmates and detainees.
As we reached a few weeks ago the halfway mark of our two-year mandate, it is fitting and proper to remind the public the major themes we have covered so far and the ones remaining. From January 2019 to March 2020 the Commission, inter alia, held public hearings on the following:
circumstances surrounding the July 22, 1994 coup,
The November 11, 1994 incident,
The June 1995 murder of former finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay,
The 1996 incident involving supporters of the opposition United Democratic Party and security forces at Denton Bridge,
Crack down on the media and violations of human rights against journalists,
The unlawful killing of students during the April 2000 student demonstrations,
The violations and rights abuses carried out by the Junglers,
Sexual and gender-based violence against women by Yahya Jammeh
The 2009 presidential witch hunts,
Attacks on religious freedoms, and
Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of public servants and private citizens.
The main themes remaining on the Commission’s work plan include:
The former president’s HIV/AIDS and other diseases alternative treatment programme
The case of the 44 Ghanaians and other West African migrants who were killed in The Gambia in July 2005,
The April 2016 incidents involving the NIA and resulting in the death in custody of UDP member Solo Sandeng,
Institutional hearings on the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Judiciary, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),
Additional hearings on sexual and gender-based violence, and
The Junglers (part two) (including the attempted assassination of veteran lawyer Mr Ousman Sillah.
Under our work plan, the Commission intends to conclude its public hearings during the first week of October, 2020. The rest of the year will be devoted to preparation of the final report of the TRRC. As and when required, occasional public hearings may be convened.
The evidence adduced before the Commission during the above-mentioned public hearings shows gross human rights violations against the Gambian people. During the last session, we also heard the gruesome accounts of the decapitation and dismemberment of the bodies of detainees to be fed to crocodiles at Jammeh’s residence in Kanilai. These wanton acts of barbarity defied all standards of human decency and constituted gross violations of the rights of not just the victims, their families, but also those of all Gambians.
Since the TRRC’s public hearings began, the conscience of the nation is being repeatedly shocked by the revelations of sheer brutality meted out to victims. The revelations have also sparked a serious national conversation and soul-searching that seeks to understand just how such acts of barbarity could happen in this country.
As we journey further into this second and final year of our mandate, this Commission remains firmly committed to the pursuit of the truth without fear or favor, affection or ill will with regards to any individual or group of individuals.
We remain committed to the cause of the victims, to the welfare of our nation and to helping guarantee non-recurrence of the senseless violations and abuses that occurred in this country. It is in this spirit that the Commission wishes to further encourage all victims of human rights violations and all persons who have information that would be helpful to the Commission’s work to please come forward and share their stories.
While not every witness that gives a statement is guaranteed to testify in a public hearing, every statement received is a valuable addition to the historical record the Commission is mandated to establish. For the work that we do here at the TRRC, every voice matters.
As usual, we crave the continued support and blessings of the public.
I thank you all for your kind attention.