Friday, January 24, 2020

Truth, reconciliation, reparation: Which should come first and last?

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The Gambian people are yet to fully comprehend the objective of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. Different demands are being made of the Commission. It is important for the media to explain the objectives of the Commission so that the nation will know what to expect and what not to expect.

The Act establishing the Commission states its objectives as follows:

“(a) create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights from July 1994 to January 2017 in order to

(i) promote healing and reconciliation

(ii) to respond to the needs of the victims,

(iii) prevent repeat of the violations and abuses suffered by making recommendations for the establishment of appropriate preventive mechanisms including institutional and legal reforms;

(b) establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of disappeared victims.

(c) provide victims an opportunity to relate their own accounts of violations and abuses suffered; and

(d) grant reparations to victims in appropriate cases.”

Those who appear before the commission as witnesses are expected to speak the truth in good faith in the public interest in order to facilitate justice, reconciliation and reparation.

Those who speak the truth as witnesses are provided the following protection by section 35 of the Act. It reads:

“(1) A witness shall not be subject to civil or criminal proceedings for disclosing a human rights violation or abuse.

“(2) The Commission shall, if it determines that there is likelihood that the life or property of the witness is in danger or is likely to be in danger, issue appropriate directions to safeguard the witness or his or her property.

“(3) The Commission shall:-

(a) provide appropriate psychological support for witnesses, especially children testifying before the Commission in order to avoid endangering or delaying their social reintegration or psychological recovery; and

(b) take special measures to ensure the safety, anonymity and confidentiality of children testifying before the Commission.

“(4) A witness before the Commission shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as he or she were a witness in proceedings before a High Court.” 

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