By Modou Nyang in New York
Any delay in bringing justice to perpetrators of crimes under the government of former president Yahya Jammeh amounts to a slap in the face of the victims, said the daughter of Saul Ndow, a man believed to have disappeared under Jammeh’s regime.
Nana-Jo Ndow spoke Thursday at the United Nations in New York at an event organised by the permanent missions of Canada and The Gambia in partnership with the Justice Rapid Response, a group helping The Gambia secure the services of forensic experts to help identify the remains of people killed under the Jammeh government.
Ms Ndow said it is a mockery of justice for someone whose family member was killed or tortured to walk in the streets and bump into people they know brutalised their loved one. “Victims want justice,” Ndow said. She said the Gambia government should listen to the victims rather than applying their “own interpretation of justice for the victims.”
Ndow, who is the executive director of African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearance, said it is traumatising to the victims’ family members to not be able to locate the remains of their loved ones and have a closure to their suffering.
“No one is ever prepared for the trauma of enforced disappearance,” Ndow said. “You are haunted by the uncertainty of not knowing whether to mourn the missing person as dead or whether to keep searching.”
Justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou, speaking at the event, said the current Gambian administration is trying to strike a balance by assuring everyone that there won’t be a witch hunt. “We don’t want to create a new class of victims,” said Tambadou. “Justice will be dispensed through the due process of the law and in a fair and transparent manner. Otherwise it will create a vicious cycle.”
Since Jammeh’s surprise defeat in the December 2016 election that led to his fleeing into exile in Equatorial Guinea, the remains of several people believed to have been killed under his rule have been exhumed. Forensic experts had to be deployed to The Gambia to help identify the remains and establish their cause of death.
Saul Ndow is believed to have been lured or abducted together with compatriot Mahawa Cham, a former National Assembly, from Dakar Senegal into the Gambia and killed. Their remains are yet to be identified.
The Barrow administration has launched a truth, reconciliation and reparations commission to offer redress to the crimes committed under Jammeh’s regime.
The UN event also included the screening of the film From Fear to Freedom: The Search for Justice in the Gambia, made by JRR.