By Yankuba Jallow
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has on Tuesday, 22nd October issued a press release frowning against the re-victimization of victims of sexual violence by members of the public.
Dr. Lamin J. Sise, the Chairperson of the Commission said they are deeply concerned about the harassment and intimidation of some victims of sexual violence who testified about the violations and abuses of their rights at the TRRC.
“It is most unfortunate and unacceptable that some survivors of sexual violence, who have endured such horrific experiences, are being re-victimized by some members of the public as a result of their willingness to appear at the TRRC and give a public account of what happened to them,” he said.
He said no one chose to be a victim of sexual violence. He added that the testimonies of such victims should not be seen as an opportunity to score political or anymore points.
“Their stories should not be dismissed. When victims of sexual violence use the TRRC proceedings to narrate their ordeal, this should be a space to promote healing, accountability, and non-recurrence of such heinous violations. It should never be a space to blame, stigmatise or harass victims,” Sise said.
Dr. Sise said: “as Gambians, we gave a collective responsibility to end sexual and gender based violence. These victims are our mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters, sons and daughters.”
He said the Commission will not allow survivors of sexual violence to be re-victimised through the TRRC process simply because they have been courageous enough to break the culture of silence in The Gambia and speak out against such horrific violations.
“We should applaud and support them. If such harassment and intimidation of victims of sexual violence persist, the Commission may resort to frequent use of in camera hearings (closed session hearings) as stipulated in section 16 (4) (b) of the TRRC Act 2017 as a witness protection measure to safeguard their security and well-being,” he said.
He said where necessary, the Commission will not hesitate to take appropriate measures against anyone who threatens or interferes with a witness in violation of section 36 of the TRRC Act 2017 as that constitutes a criminal offence.
“Therefore, the Commission urges members of the public to be empathetic and supportive of victims of sexual violence and desist from harassing and intimidating the courageous individuals,” Sise said.