The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in partnership with the Attorney General’s Chambers & Ministry of Justice of the Gambia, concluded a three-day national civil society and victims’ consultation on a proposed victims’ reparations bill for the Gambia. The overall goal of the consultation was to generate views and perspectives that will assist in the process of shaping a victims reparations bill in the aftermath of the 22 year-dictatorship of former President Yaya Jammeh—a period characterized by widespread abuse and human rights violations, and leaving scores of victims without redress. The victims’ bill elaboration is just one of a series of measures that the Government of the Gambia is undertaking as a follow-up to the conclusion of the recently concluded Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. In this connection, the Government is expected to publish its White Paper on May 25th detailing its post-TRRC commitments to justice, accountability, reparations, reconciliation and a series of institutional measures to prevent the recurrence of abuses.
The consultation is one of several activities that ABA ROLI has supported in close partnership with the Ministry of Justice of the Gambia under a rapid response project funded by the US State Department through the International Coalition of the Sites of Conscience (ICSC) and its Global Initiative for Transitional Justice Research. The rapid response project started in December 2021 and is specifically designed to provide technical assistance and capacity building to the Ministry to enable it to fulfil its post-TRRC justice and accountability mandate. Amongst the activities held since the beginning of the year included a specialized training session on international criminal law for Ministry staff and a judicial colloquium on the same topic for members of the judiciary.
The national consultations brought together a mix of civil society organizations and victim-led organizations as well as victims of human rights violations from the Greater Banjul area and outer regions. This will be complemented by regional consultations in the coming weeks. Topics covered during the consultation included “Building on the Reparations Mandate of the TRRC-taking stock,” “Domestic Reparations Mechanisms & Transformative Reparations,” “Reparations for Enforced Disappearances,” “Reparations for SGBV,” as well as discussing the connection between “Reparations & Reconciliation”. The session on “Understanding the Harm” was victim-led and featured victim testimony to help others understand the degree and forms of harm suffered by the victims. Further, victims convened in small groups to provide their views on all the listed topics.
The outcomes of these consultations will serve to inform the formulation of the draft bill, which is intended to create a specialized body to award different forms of reparations to victims, including monetary compensation, symbolic measures, and institutional measures amongst others.
The Gambia is immersed in a transitional justice process following 22 years of dictatorship. At the center of the transition agenda has been the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) charged with documenting abuses committed during the 22-year period of Yaya Jammeh’s government. The TRRC was set up in 2018 for a two-year term and on November 25, 2021, the TRRC submitted its final report with recommendations to the Government. On December 25, 2021, the TRRC report was made public by the Minister of Justice, who publicly committed to implementing the TRRC Recommendations. The recommendations from the report call for criminal prosecutions, reparations, institutional measures, reconciliation, and a review of amnesty applications, amongst others.
At this stage, the government is expected to deliver on the recommendations of the TRRC report and take steps in both the immediate and long-term to implement the TRRC recommendations, one of these being a roll out a comprehensive nationwide reparations program for victims of violations during the previous Jammeh era. A key feature of the TRRC mandate was reparations for victims of human rights violations, and the TRRC did take notable measures in adopting reparations guidelines and issuing interim measure reparations for urgent cases. The measures were however not comprehensive in nature and many victims are still awaiting reparations for harms suffered. To honor its commitment to victims, the government is presently launching a process of developing a Victims’ Reparations Bill (the Victims’ Bill) that will establish an entity mandated to handle all reparations matters.
I like the whole consultative process and this new approach of support. I think the American Bar Association is doing a great job. I like the approach. We do feel part of the process and that is not just the ministry’s bill but ours. It does not even feel like we are been consulted on the bill, it is as if we are all coming together to develop the bill ourselves as CSOs and stakeholders. I have a good feeling about this and I hope the politicians do not disappoint us.
Bringing us together as victims to share our stories has really emboldened me to speak up more. Psychologically too, I am in a much better place than I was before engaging with CSOs and all these processes. I am now able to process the trauma I went through and also able to participate meaningfully in these processes such as the victims’ bill consultations
News Coverage about the event:
- QTV Gambia TV nightly news: https://youtu.be/YprYhnOL1_U?t=539
- AllAfrica: Gambia: Govt Accepts Reparations Responsibility By Makutu Manneh
- GRTS: Consultation on the Victims Reparations Bill in Progress By Essa Jallow
- Foroyaa: Gov’t Accepts Reparations Responsibility By Makutu Manneh
- Gainako: MoJ engages TRRC Victims on Victims Reparations Bill By Patience Loum
Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.