Rights group alerts destruction of Jammeh’s crime evidences

Gambia's former president, Yahya Jammeh. RR

Addis Ababa (ADV) – Ex-President Yayah Jammeh’s cronies employed with the incumbent government were destroying shreds of evidence of rights violations by the former president, sources said Friday.

The Banjul-based Standard Times newspaper quoted a rights group leader making the statement on Thursday in solidarity with the frustration that Jammeh’s crime victims were facing.

An undisclosed number of Jammeh’s crime victims in The Gambia are expressing apprehension over their safety following the release of four of the former president suspected henchmen.

Gambia’s army chief, Lt General Masanneh Kinteh announced the men’s release during a press conference recently in Banjul.

Since, Jammeh’s fall from grace nearly two years ago, the new government arrested several of Jammeh’s cronies and set up ad hoc committees to investigate the crimes allegedly committed by Mr. Jammeh.

But rights defenders and civil society groups have been casting doubts over the seriousness that President Adama Barrow’s government attached to the investigations.

“You cannot conduct a proper investigation when the people that are supposed to make the investigation themselves are those accused of the alleged crimes,” says Sheriff Kijera, the interim chairperson of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations in Banjul.

Gen. Kinteh had argued that the men were released after « they were extensively interrogated but no evidence was found that ties them to the atrocities, killings and human rights abuse committed during the 22 years of Jammeh’s rule ».

Kijera said: “our concern as victims is that some of these “junglers” have been released and we do not know under what basis…we only heard it over the news saying there is not sufficient evidence to keep them in detention ».

Reacting further, Kijera opined that « it would be incorrect for anyone to suggest that proper investigations were conducted when most of the former president’s enablers who hands are tainted (with blood), are still part of the system ».

He continued: “Yes, we understand their rights as citizens and we respect that, but the government should do more to build their cases with very strong evidence, which we believe cannot happen when you have so many of these perpetrators working in the system and are destroying evidence.”

The rights activist further expressed dismay over the incumbent government’s failure to vet public servants for employment following the departure of the former president who lorded it over the tiny Gambia for 22 unbroken years.

Last month, Jammeh hinted from his exile abode in Equatorial Guinea that he could return home « to contribute to the political process » even as mass graves linked to his regime were discovered in the country and as Ghana contemplates a lawsuit against him for allegedly assassinating about 44 of its citizens under his watch.

Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and a former minister of President Jammeh, had not dismissed the possibility of having her former boss face trial in the advent of authentic charges against the embattled former soldier.

© Bur-csa – Tamba Jean-Matthew III – ADV