Commission delivers long-awaited report to President Barrow nine days before an election where ex-president Jammeh, who still has much backing, has urged his supporters to vote for an opposition coalition.

Former President Yahya Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea where he fled after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in the 2016 election.
Former President Yahya Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea where he fled after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in the 2016 election. (Reuters)

Gambia has wrapped up a sweeping three-year public inquiry by recommending prosecutions for abuses committed during former President Yahya Jammeh's rule.

Gambia's Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) delivered on Thursday its full report to President Adama Barrow, nine days before a presidential election in which the exiled Jammeh has urged his supporters to vote for an opposition coalition.

Nearly 400 witnesses testified before the TRRC, including the victims and perpetrators of the torture, killings and looting that characterised Jammeh's 22-year rule.

"To forgive and forget with impunity the violations and abuses ... would not only undermine reconciliation but would also constitute a massive and egregious cover-up of the crimes committed," the commission said in a statement.

At a news conference, commission chairman Lamin Sise declined to comment on who specifically should be targeted for prosecution. Barrow or his successor will have six months to decide how to respond to the report.

It could form the basis for criminal proceedings against Jammeh and others. 

READ MORE: Ex-Gambian president accused of looting state coffers 

Denying allegations 

Witnesses before the commission detailed how Jammeh ordered killings of political opponents. Malick Jatta, an army lieutenant close to Jammeh, said the former president paid over $1,000 each to members of his security service who killed newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.

Sergeant Omar Jallow told the commission that in 2005 Jammeh ordered the killing of 59 unarmed migrants that Jammeh thought had come to overthrow him.

Fatou Jallow, the winner of a 2014 beauty pageant, testified that Jammeh raped her when she was 19.

Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea where he fled after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in the 2016 election. He was not reachable for comment on Thursday. He has previously denied allegations of wrongdoing.

Even if Jammeh is found guilty, he may not face punishment. Under Gambian law, a former head of state cannot be prosecuted unless parliament approves proceedings by a two-thirds majority.

Rights groups have long pushed for prosecutions for the litany of alleged abuses – such as the use of death squads – committed during Jammeh's 22-year rule which ended in 2017.

READ MORE: Gambia launches crackdown on protest movement

Source: Reuters