Gambia’s Truth Commission begins probe into 2005 massacre of over 50 West African migrants

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA:- The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has on Wednesday began hearings into the circumstances surrounding the 2005 massacre of more than 50 West African migrants.

TRRC, established in 2017 to investigate human right violations under former president Yahya Jammeh, begins investigations in the killings of West African Migrants in July 2005. The massacre, was described by many as the largest loss of life during the 22-year rule of the Jammeh’s presidency.

The commission’s Lead Counsel, Essa Faal said the intention is to exposed the terrible act which happened to these migrants when apprehended on Gambian soil.

According to Trial International, about 44 Ghanaians, 9 Nigerians, 2 Togolese, and nationals of Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia and Senegal are believed to have been killed.

Ghana’s Martin Kyere, the sole known survivor of the 2005 killings, is among those scheduled to testify in the 21st session of the commission. Several Gambian witnesses, including those who took part or at least have first hand knowledge of the execution, are also expected to appear before the commission.

Martin Kyere will be in Banjul for the hearings together with Wiliam Nyarko of the Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) who coordinates the Jammeh2Justice Ghana campaign.

“I have been fighting for 15 years for truth and for justice for my companions who were killed,” Trial International quoted Kyere as saying. He had escaped from a moving truck carrying other detained migrants who were killed shortly thereafter. Since then he has been organizing the families of the victims and leading the struggle to bring Jammeh to justice.

Ghana has previously attempted to investigate the killings in 2005 and 2006, but was blocked by the then-Jammeh government.

In 2008, the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) formed a joint investigative team, which produced a report in April 2009 that was said to have concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the deaths and enforced disappearances.

It blamed “rogue” elements in Gambia’s security services “acting on their own” for the massacre.

A 2018 report by Trial International and Human Rights Watch, based on interviews with 30 former Jammeh-era officials, found, however, that Jammeh’s closest associates in the army, the navy, and the police detained the migrants, and then the “Junglers,” a unit of Gambian soldiers operating under Jammeh’s orders, summarily executed them. They also found that the Gambian government destroyed key evidence before the UN/ECOWAS team arrived.

In July 2019, three former Junglers testified publicly before the truth commission that they and 12 other Junglers had carried out the killings on Jammeh’s orders. One of the officers, Omar Jallow, recalled that the operation’s leader told the men that “the order from … Jammeh is that they are all to be executed.”

TRRC was established by an act of parliament to investigate and establish an impartial historical record of human right violations, but to also consider reparations for the victims of abuses, promote reconciliation and promote non-reoccurrence.

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