Speaking on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, on Wednesday July 19th at the Kairaba Beach Hotel, Special Adviser to the Attorney General, Hussein Thomas, said the Government of The Gambia will establish a truth and reconciliation and reparations commission whose principal objectives will be to give the victims of abuses a voice by allowing them to share their stories, give perpetrators the opportunity to tell the truth about these abuses in a manner that a normal criminal proceedings will not permit.
He assured of appropriate compensation to the victims of loss or injury suffered as a result of the abuses. “It is hoped that this process will lead to a healing on the part of victims and ultimately reconciliation across a broad spectrum of Gambian society, who have been affected, either directly or indirectly by the events of the past 22 years”, he assured, adding that Government has the responsibility to actively foster social cohesion and encourage national reconciliation.
He revealed that a draft bill will soon be presented to the National Assembly as soon as it is finalised and approved by cabinet and thereafter, will look forward for necessary support structures to be put in place that the commission will start hearing by the end of the year, he said.
The Special Adviser informed the appointments of commissioners and recruitment of support staff shall be guided by The Gambia Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission Act after it is passed by the National Assembly.
Part of the mandate of the TRC, he went on, is to investigate sexual violence and other gender based offences, and closed hearings will be put in place to allow children and victims of sexual abuse to testify in a private setting.
Mr Thomas made reference to countries like Sierra Leone, which he said have received commendation for their efforts to solicit the views of women organisations and gender advocacy groups during proceedings of TRC, which largely aided the completion of the report with gender perspective. Therefore, he alluded, it is expected that one of the thematic areas on which the Gambian TRC holds hearings is dedicated to women children and the youth.
He further remarked: “Transitional justice is about dealing with the past and implementing measures to redress legacies of massive human rights abuses. It also seeks to establish accountability as well as recognise the rights and status of victims particularly women and children by ensuring that their rights and views are respected”.
Also speaking on the occasion, Ms Maria Dacosta, Board Chair, WANEP said the organization seeks to increase the knowledge based in West Africa by contributing to research and enhancing the skills and expertise of organisations and individuals and also build the capacities of women to enhance their roles in peace building and post-conflict reconstruction.