The Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission has said more than one hundred and forty (140) statements on the witch hunts and other violations are in waiting for the Commission’s public hearings
Speaking during the opening of eight session on Monday, Dr Lamin J Sise, chair of the Commission said: “Between July 6 and 14, 2019 teams from the Research and Investigations Unit visited Brikama, Sintet, Gunjur, Jambur and Busumbala in the West Coast Region to engage communities and obtain statements from victims of the 2009 witch hunts and other violations. They collected over 140 statements that are being processed in readiness for the Commission’s hearings on the witch hunts and other violations in the near future.”
Dr Sise said four hundred and four witnesses appeared during its seventh session and that Twenty-one of these 104 witnesses were perpetrators and alleged perpetrators, adding that the rest were mostly victims, including 16 women.
“The seventh session started off with the completion of testimony by the first batch of Junglers to appear before the Commission, and continued with a focus on the April 10 and 11, 2000 student demonstrations in which at least 14 students and one Red Cross volunteer were killed by security forces,” he said.
He added: “The atrocities the Junglers testified to shock the conscience of the nation and indeed the world. While these atrocities were painful to hear, the truth of the brutalities under the twenty-two years of dictatorship needs to be told and recorded with a view to avoiding their recurrence.”
He said that the eighth session would be dominated by hearing testimony on events surrounding the April 2000 student demonstrations, adding “these witnesses include both direct and indirect victims, security officers, civil servants, and politicians who were in one way or the other involved in the tragic events. It is anticipated that testimonies on April 10 and 11, 2000 will dominate the public hearings of the Commission during this eighth session. Advance work in preparation for hearings on other themes is also ongoing. “
He said the two teams of TRRC Commissioners and Secretariat staff went on Diaspora engagement tours in the United States and Europe. These engagements are in line with the Commission’s mandate as stipulated in Sections 14 and 15 of the TRRC Act, which was funded by the UNDP.
“We are happy to say that both legs of the Diaspora engagements in the U.S. and Europe proved very successful. We are very grateful to everyone who contributed to our Victim Support Fund during the engagements,” he told the gathering.
He continued: “The TRRC has submitted the names of the first nine victims to have been seen by the Medical Board for consideration for possible treatment in Turkey. The board has also submitted reports on more than a dozen other victims and the TRRC will do what it can to facilitate their access to the care they need. Meanwhile, the TRRC is facilitating funding and scholarships for young victims to continue their formal education.”
Dr Sise reassured the commitment of the Commission to its mandate without fear or favor, affection or ill will.
“We wish to reassure the general public that the TRRC remains totally committed to the pursuit of its mandate without fear or favor, affection or ill will. This Commission is an embodiment of both state and society in this country and exists for the service of all Gambians regardless of political, ethnic, gender, regional or religious affiliation. As we seek to create a true historical record of what happened in this country during twenty-two years of dictatorship, we also seek to help create a society reconciled and at peace with itself, a tolerant society, and a society of empowered citizens who will refuse to allow political impunity and gross human rights violations to happen in this country again. In this daunting but fulfilling task, and as we start this new session of public hearings, allow me to say that we need and we crave the understanding, support and prayers of the Gambian public and the international community,” he said.