(Banjul, May 24, 2021) – Testimony before a Gambian truth commission linking former president Yahya Jammeh to numerous grave crimes during his 22 years in office should be followed by criminal accountability, Human Rights Watch said today with the release of a video, “Truth and Justice in Gambia.” On May 27, 2021, the Gambia Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) will conclude over two years of publicly televised sessions.
Victims and former government officials who testified at the hearings, which began in January 2019, tied Jammeh to the killing and torture of political opponents, the murder of about 59 West African migrants, and “witch hunts” in which hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained, among other crimes. They also alleged that Jammeh raped and sexually assaulted women brought to him and personally ran a sham treatment program that forced HIV-positive Gambians to give up their medicine and put themselves under Jammeh’s personal care.
He broke my family into pieces, and he broke so many families into pieces.
My dad went missing when I was just 14 years old. He was against things that Yahya had been doing. Sometimes I find it so hard to understand these things.
Some people liked Jammeh, loved him, and didn’t believe what people were telling them
Human Right Watch
For 22 years, Yahya Jammeh was the president of Gambia. His rule was marked by the torture and killing of dissenters, the arrest of journalists, sexual violence, massive corruption.
In January 2017, Jammeh fled to Equatorial Guinea. Now, details of the Jammeh government’s crimes are coming out.
January 7, 2019
Good morning everyone. I call to order the first public meeting of the TRRC.
This is an investigation into the mass atrocities that occurred in this country between 1994 and 2017.
The testimonies that came out at the Truth Commission, the TRRC, have implicated Jammeh personally in many of the worst crimes.
Yahya Jammeh told you what?
Fmr. Junta Vice Chair
He told me clearly, “We have to execute the ringleaders.”
And that is what you did?
Everybody is glued to their TVs, their phones, on Facebook just to hear from people who had killed people, from people who had tortured people.
Fmr. Death Squad Member
Yahya Jammeh said, “Let’s kill these people and cut their flesh into pieces.”
Cut them up into pieces?
Cut them up into pieces.
Like they would do meat.
The Gambia was a place where a dictator was operating undercover. We have also seen a lot of non-Gambians being killed in Gambia, being imprisoned for nothing.
Omar A. Jallow
Fmr. Death Squad Member
These people are mercenaries. The order from the Head of State, the former President Yahya Jammeh is they are all to be executed.
One man survived to tell the story of the massacre of 59 West African migrants.
Survivor and Activist
I tell my guys that I have my hands off from the rope. And they said it’s God who wants to save you to tell the world what Yahya Jammeh has done to us and how he have killed us.
I hope justice will be served and the perpetrators will be brought before law.
Jammeh organized a phony AIDS program which forced HIV-positive Gambians to give up their medicines and put themselves in his personal care,
Survivor and Activist
One of the rules was that anyone that came for the treatment, they were told, you were using ARV [antiretroviral medicine], you will have to stop it.
Dr Assan Jaye
Some died no matter how much we tried. Why these people died there, it’s because of the length they stayed at the presidential treatment program.
Protected survivor of sexual assault
Yahaya Jammeh was very powerful and cunning. He targeted young women from vulnerable family and using state institutions and resources to ensure that women could not say ‘No.’
Fatou “Toufah” Jallow
There was a whole system. For him to exploit for him to rape.
He said, “Let’s see if you are a virgin.” And um…swear to God I was scared.
My justice most importantly includes a whole system change, so that we can prosecute this man, have our day in court. I want the next person after me to be a little less scared.
Now, the truth commission will recommend that those behind the crimes be prosecuted and it will be up to the government to seek Jammeh’s extradition.
It is the last hope for many victims. Their fear every day is that it is all going to come to naught.
I urge this government to implement every single recommendation that will come out of this commission.
I just have one wish. I wish I will have the opportunity to face Yahya himself and then ask him why he had to kill my dad.
The least that a victim needs is the truth. So, the testimonies and the stories of these people make people know who Jammeh really was. Justice for all those people means Jammeh should pay for everything that he had done.
May 24, 2021News Release