Falana calls for immediate trial of Yahya Jammeh at Extraordinary African Chambers

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Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has urged the Africa Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) to take immediate action on the recommendation by Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRCC) that the former president, Yahya Jammeh, be prosecuted.

The TRCC recommends that Mr Jammeh and several of his accomplices be prosecuted for extra-judicial killings of citizens and foreigners, rape, clampdown on the press and opposition among other crimes perpetrated in his 22-year rule in The Gambia.

Describing the recommendation as a ‘turning point for justice’ in The Gambia, Mr Falana first charged the Equatorial Guinea president, Teodoro Obiang, to not continue to “protect” Mr Jammeh or shield him from prosecution.

He then called on the AU and UN to act swiftly to ensure Mr Jammeh is extradited to Senegal to face trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers.

A statement he released on Tuesday reads, “In view of the fact that the victims were not only Gambian nationals, the Commission recommends that a special international court be set up to try Jammeh and others in West Africa, but outside of Gambia. I call on the leadership of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations to take immediate and effective measures to ensure that Mr Jammeh and senior members of his government are extradited to Senegal to face trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese courts, for the sake of Jammeh’s victims.

“I believe that the recommended trial will not require separate structures and institutions. With the existence of the Extraordinary African Chambers, the AU leaders do not have to reinvent the wheel. Immediately extraditing Mr Jammeh and others to face trial before the Chambers would save time and resources. The Chambers’ statute gives it competence over crimes against humanity and torture as defined in the statute. The definitions of these crimes generally mirror those used in the Rome Stature of the International Criminal Court and other international tribunals.

“Mr Jammeh will be entitled to his fair trial rights before the Extraordinary Chambers, including those guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights both of which Senegal has ratified. These human rights treaties outline the minimum guarantees that must be afforded to defendants in criminal proceedings.”

Mr Falana appealed to the European Union and other global bodies committed to the cause of justice and accountability for international crimes in Africa to support the trial with adequate funds.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) went further to explain the workings of the Extraordinary African Chambers and the process Mr Jammeh’s trial should follow.

“The Extraordinary African Chambers have four levels: an Investigative Chamber with four investigative judges, an Indicting Chamber of three judges, a Trial Chamber, and an Appeals Chamber. The Trial Chamber and the Appeals Chamber each have two Senegalese Judges and a President from another African Union member state. The chambers also have an administrator to ensure the smooth functioning of their activities and to handle all non-judicial aspects of the work.

“Jammeh’s victims must be afforded the opportunity to participate in proceedings as civil parties. Should he be convicted of the charges against him, the victims of his crimes must receive adequate compensation, and reparations, including guarantee of non-repetition.”

The TRCC after the release of the report had called on individuals who made full and remorseful disclosure before the commission and were not involved in crimes against humanity to apply for amnesty.

The Gambian government promised to release a white paper on or before May 25, 2022, on the commission’s report.

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