I encourage the Victims Centre that was invoked by the Attorney General in order to take cover for this unpopular and wrongheaded decision to seek legal advice to get a court injunction against the Attorney General and Army, preventing them from releasing these killers to the society. The Attorney General needs to do the job only he’s mandated to do under the Constitution, i.e. prosecute criminals, rather than outsource the job to the TRRC.
It is a false premise to say that these killers should be released, because similarly situated killers like Sana Sabally and Alaji Kanji are freely walking in the society. These people are different than Kanji and Sabally, who were free before they testified before the TRRC. Besides, there is nothing in our laws stopping the Attorney General from charging all these people, including Sabally and Kanji. It is not true that the truth can only be established through the TRRC or truth-telling should be compensated with impunity.
It is insulting to the victims of Jammeh atrocities to pretend that the TRRC is even the best means of getting to the truth, and once the truth is established we should all forget about the heinous acts of these perpetrators. It’s a big fallacy. The TRRC is a one-sided tribunal where witnesses are not subjected to forensic examinations. This is the easiest job a prosecutor’s office can ask for: to have witnesses appear without lawyers and at times are not subjected to rigorous cross examination. Any lawyer should know that that is not how to get to the truth. You get to the truth by subjecting witnesses to lead examinations, cross examinations, and re-examinations, after you’ve conducted a thorough investigation. Needless to say, if we have a prosecutor’s office that is lazy or incompetent to do the hard work, it will pass it to a toothless commission of inquiry.
It is not true that without the recommendations of the TRRC the Attorney General cannot prosecute known killers, irrespective of whether they testify at the commission. The Attorney General cannot hide behind the TRRC Act to abdicate his duties under the constitution to try criminals. Yes, it will be easier to prosecute criminals after you have received confessions from them through a commission of inquiry. But that is not the only means of holding criminals accountable. It’s sad that throughout a 45-minute press conference I heard the word accountability (or a derivative thereof) mentioned only once. As I argued more than two years ago, commissions of inquiries like the TRRC are a perversion of the rule of law. The rule of law dictates that if criminals commit crimes, they are investigated, tried and punished. Not taken to a commission to confess to crimes that suit them and then be unleashed onto society to undergo some bogus counseling.
The Attorney General claimed to have taken his decision to set the killers free in the interest of the country, especially the victims. I submit that this decision was not taken in the interest of the victims. Rather, it was taken in the interest of the killers, the Attorney General and the cheerleaders of the TRRC. This government is not committed to the victims. Otherwise it would have put a mechanism in place to begin paying reparations to the victims. All the government is interested in is parading criminals before national television to confess to heinous crimes and the government taking credit for leading us to the ‘truth.’ Give me a break. These revelations are not new. Starting with Nov. 11, 1994, the killing of Koro Ceesay, the murder of Deyda Hydara, and other killings by the ‘Junglers’ revealed to the world by Bai Lowe, we have heard it all before. Any prosecutor’s office worth its salt would have leveraged those revelations and at a minimum bargain with these killers to plead to lesser offenses and be sentenced to shorter terms in exchange for their confessions. That’s what you do, rather than letting someone scot-free because they confessed to their crimes. It’s absurd to administer a criminal justice system like that. The Attorney General in another context lamented the lack of resources at the AG’s Chambers. That might explain why they want to take the easier route and unleash these killers to the society. But let’s not pretend here that we are releasing these people in the interest of the society at large.
Civil Society should challenge this in the courts. Before the TRRC Act, we have the Constitution that places an obligation on the Attorney General to bring killers to justice. It is false to claim that the Attorney General’s hands are tied until the commission finishes it’s work and make recommendations to prosecute.
Muhamad Sosseh, Esq
06 August 2019.