Editorial Human Rights News

The Need To Enact Legislation to Provide Reparations and Recognition to Victims of Human Rights Violations

Dawda A. Jallow, Justice Minister

Mamudu: Legislation should be enacted immediately to provide reparations and recognition to the victims of human rights violations under Yahya Jammeh’s rule. The Gambian government ought to have given precedence to compensating the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s regime—those who have lost family members, property, limbs, and who have suffered through bloodshed, tears, and the tyranny—rather than allocating substantial loans to parliamentarians for vehicle purchases and engaging private digital media firms for propaganda and personal branding that highlight government achievements. Such compensation would have aided victims and survivors who struggle with the costs of rebuilding their lives and rehabilitation. The allocation of 40 million Dalasi to private media for branding, marketing, and propaganda is questionable when Jammeh’s victims and survivors are in financial hardship. This aligns with one of the Truth Commission’s recommendations for reparations to the victims.

The National Assembly is urged to pass a Human Rights Victims Reparations and Recognition Act and establish an independent Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board to manage a compensation fund for the victims of former President Yahya Jammeh’s human rights abuses. This key legislative policy should be embedded in our laws, including a directive for the Presidential Commission on Good Governance and Human Rights to recover Yahya Jammeh’s illicitly acquired wealth, and for the National Assembly to legislate for the reparation and acknowledgment of human rights violation victims during Yahya Jammeh’s tenure.

The valor of those who bravely opposed Yahya Jammeh, a betrayer of the Constitution and the republic, must be honored and remembered by all generations of Gambians who cherish freedom. The Adama Barrow administration must fulfill its moral and legal duty to recognize and recompense all victims and their families for the deaths, injuries, suffering, losses, and harm they endured under Jammeh’s rule.

How can one quantify the years of loss and profound suffering? What constitutes just compensation for the life of a mother, father, spouse, child, friend, or relative? The gravest crime of Jammeh’s regime was the forced separation of families, the destruction of communities through murder and exile of its valuable members. How does one measure the cost of an empty seat at the dinner table, forever awaiting the return of a loved one?

What constitutes fair compensation for a shattered nation? What amount can equate to reparation for generational impoverishment and pervasive governmental corruption, the enduring legacies of a heinous dictator? What compensation can suffice for families fragmented, facing an endless diaspora? Indeed, how does one compensate for life disruptions? For the horrors of water torture, electrocution, rape, mutilation, solitary confinement, and years of unwarranted imprisonment? For being tortured nearly to death?

The state ought to implement a policy that acknowledges the bravery and sacrifices of all Gambians who endured summary executions, torture, enforced disappearances, and other severe human rights abuses during Yahya Jammeh’s regime from July 22, 1994, to January 19, 2017, thereby restoring the victims’ honor and dignity. The State must recognize its moral and legal duty to acknowledge and provide reparation to all victims and their families for the deaths, injuries, suffering, deprivations, and damages endured under the brutal rule of Yahya Jammeh.

No monetary value can encapsulate the despair, agony, and torment endured by the countless Gambians who suffered physical torture, imprisonment, homelessness, economic hardship, and loss of life. The rule of Yahya Jammeh is tantamount to a nation divided and pillaged, where citizens were rendered deaf, blind, and mute, with diminished life aspirations, in stark contrast to the segment of Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) supporters and their affiliates, who prospered and lived ostentatiously.

The allegations that Yahya Jammeh looted the nation and infringed upon the fundamental rights of its citizens are not just rumors circulated on social media or casual dinner talk. They are, according to the rules of evidence, legislative facts that must be acknowledged as true by courts of law, irrespective of political views or personal interpretations of history. This implies that, in light of our legal framework, there is no room for debate over whether Yahya Jammeh pillaged the nation and committed human rights abuses that necessitated state intervention.

Furthermore, there is nothing commendable or emulable about Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship, which is aptly characterized as one of the most somber chapters in the history of The Gambia.

The National Assembly ought to establish the Presidential Commission on Good Governance and Human Rights, and create both administrative and judicial mechanisms to recover funds misappropriated by Yahya Jammeh and his associates. The discovery of millions of dollars and other assets both domestically and internationally confirms the long-term embezzlement. The Supreme Court needs to acknowledge the theft perpetrated by Yahya Jammeh’s regime, denouncing it as a deeply rooted, twenty-two-year plundering operation.

Furthermore, the National Assembly should enhance the Act to include reparations and acknowledgment for those who suffered human rights violations under Yahya Jammeh’s rule. In light of the dictatorship’s atrocities, the government must adopt a policy that utilizes public funds to compensate for Jammeh’s exploitation of state apparatus to commit violence against Gambian citizens. It is imperative for the Gambian populace to voice their grievances regarding the human rights abuses under Jammeh’s regime, compelling the government to acknowledge and address the magnitude and severity of the inflicted abuses by providing reparations.

As a signatory of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Gambia is obligated to safeguard and promote the fundamental rights of all its citizens. The Gambian government must cherish the dignity of every individual and ensure complete adherence to human rights, in line with its policy and constitution that forbids torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any action that undermines free will, and requires the compensation and rehabilitation of torture victims and their families.

Mamudu: The new Gambia is owed the courage and resolve to reinstate democracy and reestablish human rights and human dignity.

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