The opening in Germany of the trial of a Gambian for crimes against humanity raises hopes in Gambia that justice will one day be done for the victims of Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year dictatorship, but this fight remains far from won .

Accused of having participated in two murders, including that of the journalist Deyda HydaraAFP correspondent in Banjul, Bai Lowe is to be tried from Monday in a German court for crimes against humanitymurders and attempted murders between 2003 and 2006. He is accused of having been the regime’s death squad driver, and in particular of having escorted the assassins of Deyda Hydara, shot dead on December 16, 2004.

I trust that justice will be done for my father after Bai Lowe’s trial because Germany is a neutral country, and I expect a fair trial“, says Baba Hydara, 45, son of a man considered until his death as the oldest journalist in Gambia.

Remembering the “tenacity” of his father, also representative of theNGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Banjul, Mr. Hydara evokes “almost 18 years” of “difficulties” and of “challenges” during which his family was “beaten for justice“.

The hope is to see the court decide in favor of the victims and hold (the defendant) to account for the crimes against humanity he has committed“, abounds Ayesha Jammeh, co-founder of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations.

Came to power in a peaceful putsch in 1994, Yahya Jammeh had been widely elected and re-elected without interruption until his defeat, in December 2016, against the current president Adama Barrow.

Truth and Reconciliation

Particularly ferocious, his regime was characterized by a multitude of atrocities: assassinations, enforced disappearances, rape and castration, torture…

From January 2019 to May 2021, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), tasked with bringing to light these crimes, collected a multitude of damning testimonies, which Gambians discovered during televised hearings.

In December 2021, the TRRC gave Adama Barrow a report in 17 volumes. The Commission y “recommends the prosecution of Yahya Jammeh and his accomplices before an international tribunal, in a West African country other than The Gambia“, for “murders, arbitrary detentions, disappearances“, among others.

The decision to prosecute rests with Mr. Barrow, who must make his choice known before the end of the first half. In December, when he was re-elected, he said: “I take part in the decision, but it’s not entirely my decision“, this must be taken, according to him, in consultation with his government and after consultation with experts.

The executive also promised the publication of a white paper on the recommendations of the TRRC, no later than May 25. But the appointment on April 14 by the deputies, with the agreement of Mr. Barrow, of a former ally of the dictator, Fabakary Tombong Jattaat the head of Parliament, raises doubts and fears about the fact that the families of victims will one day obtain reparation.

“We will never give up”

The Speaker of Parliament and his deputy (…) have shown their opposition to the TRRC from the start“, estimates the political analyst Essa Njie.

This professor atUniversity of Gambia expects members of Mr. Jammeh’s party to sit in the new government to be formed after the April 10 legislative elections, which failed to give Mr. Barrow an outright majority.

If these people are retrained (…) I am extremely pessimistic that justice can be done“, he adds. “The criminals who live here could probably (…) for some of them escape any punishment.

“But those who are outside The Gambia (…) will have to answer for their actions before the courts in the end”, he believes, recalling that “some countries are ready to use the principle of universal jurisdiction“to judge those responsible for certain serious crimes committed abroad – such as Germany.

For Ayesha Jammehniece of the dictator whose father and an aunt are presumed to have been eliminated by the regime, the fact that these trials do not take place in The Gambia is explained by a “lack of capacity“of the judicial system, but especially by”lack of political will“, who is “the main obstacle“.

Baba Hydara, he wants “use the Bai Lowe trial to show the Gambian government that even if they don’t come out with the white paper and implement most of the recommendations (from the TRRC), we will use other means to make them happen implemented, having recourse to other courts“outside the country.”We will never give up“, he says.

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