- Title: Gambia's bankrupt state risks failing families seeking justice.
- Date: 19th April 2017
- Summary: VARIOUS SCREEN SHOTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ARTICLE ABOUT SALO SANDENG, A POLITICAL ACTIVIST WHO DIED IN CUSTODY AFTER HE WAS ARRESTED FOR DEMONSTRATING IN APRIL 2016 FREEDOM NEWSPAPER ONLINE ARTICLE SHOWING PICTURE OF SOLO SANDENG ON THE RIGHT
- Embargoed: 3rd May 2017 15:17
- Keywords: Justice Solo Sandeng Truth and Reconciliation Bankrupt Jammeh Dictatorship High Court Barrow
- Location: BANJUL AND SEREKUNDA, GAMBIA
- City: BANJUL AND SEREKUNDA, GAMBIA
- Country: Gambia
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Judicial Process/Court Cases/Court Decisions
- Reuters ID: LVA0026D2E8GN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: From the outside, Gambia looked much the same on April 7 - the day after the first parliamentary elections since the end of Yahya Jammeh's dictatorship.
But inside the main market of the capital Banjul, away from the bustle of the traders, there was something radically different: the sound of people arguing about politics.
This never would have happened under Jammeh.
Ibrahima Manga, Pa Mundiaye and Alaji Baboucar Mane lived most of their lives under Jammeh's rule when people silently vanished and politicians, activists, journalists and ordinary people who disagreed with the government were jailed without trial for speaking their mind publicly.
Many were tortured and others died in detention, their bodies buried in secret locations which the new government has recently unearthed.
As the three men listened to the results of the election on the radio, they argued about where Jammeh should be tried.
"... we don't like him here, we don't want him here, let him just go, anywhere, and let them jail him, jail him, jail him there, you understand!" says Alaji Baboucar Mane.
"He should be tried here because he committed all those crimes in the country. So he needs to be brought back to the country and face justice here" says Pa Mundiaye. "We cannot forgive him," he adds.
"Any would do. Any would do. Justice is justice. Let him just face justice and dance to the tune. Outside the Gambia is ok, they will take him to the ICC you know so that he will explain. Definitely he has a lot to explain. He has a lot to explain definitely," said Ibrahima Manga.
But Jammeh has put himself out of the ICC's reach. He fled to Equatorial Guinea which has not signed up to the court in the Hague.
In Gambia, the justice system is starved of funds, equipment and expertise and is buckling under a backlog of dozens of unsolved cases from the Jammeh era.
The case of Solo Sandeng illustrates the serious problems faced by Banjul's cash-strapped courts.
A prominent activist and member of one of Gambia's opposition parties, Sandeng was arrested during a peaceful demonstration in April last year.
He died in detention and his body was exhumed and returned to his family just last month.
The nine members of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) who arrested him, were charged for their involvement in Solo Sandeng's death and jailed.
But their case was postponed five times. The judge said prosecutors must present more evidence.
His daughter, Fatoumatta Sandeng says she wants justice despite the challenges and delays.
"We are expecting justice to be served and no matter how many times they go back and forth we believe that, and we also wish and hope that there would not be a result of it being cancelled or anything, or justice not to be served," said Fatoumatta Sandeng.
Justice Minister Aboubacar Tambadou is confident the case against the NIA9 - as they are now known, will proceed, but urged patience.
"We will proceed with the case because there is prima facie evidence of murder. What we, so there is no question about that. The case of Solo Sandeng will proceed. The issue that I have is: what happens to the other cases that will be brought to the attention of the police? They will be compelled to take action, investigate and investigate thoroughly," said Tambadou.
The Finance Minister has said international donors, including the EU, the IMF and the World Bank, as well as experts from the commonwealth, will assist Gambia in dealing with all the court case arrears, finding lawyers and judges.
Meanwhile, the state has to prioritise with the little it has.
"Typically, I will give you an example. I have in my ministry about 13 lawyers who don't even have desktop computers to work with. There is no stationary. There are no photocopying machines, no printers, very basic, basic office equipment that one would need to provide the most minimum of services to any office. We don't have them here. That is the scale of the challenge," says Tambadou.
Gambia is expected to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission within six months, one of the pillars of President Adama Barrow's government.
But it is saddled with over $1 billion in debt and is struggling to function.
"That is where the challenge is. If you say have 50 victims whose families have lodged complaints to the police and investigations have to be conducted simultaneously, where are you going to get the resources from? How are you going to get the capacity to do that? and how are you going to address that vis a vis the need to establish a truth and reconciliation commission, which the president has publicly said he wants so that this country can deal with its past in a constructive manner and move forward in trying to rebuild our communities, to build bridges and to heal wounds," Tambadou said.
Fatoumatta Sandeng says there will be no reconciliation in Gambia until there is justice.
"There only can only be truth and reconciliation. Yes, I believe in it but it can only happen when there is justice and truth be told. We cannot be just left in bewilderedness and then you want us to accept reconciliation. We need truth, we need justice to be served, then we can reconcile," she said.
In March an association of victims and their relatives was up to seek reparations and demand Jammeh's assets be frozen.
But for the moment it is Gambia's own state funding that is frozen with little guarantee that once donors' money flows in it will be able to cope with a large influx of victims and their relatives demanding their day in court.
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