THE MANDATE OF THE TRUTH RECONCILIATION AND REPARATION COMMISSION.
The TRRC was established by an act of parliament to investigate and establish an impartial historical record of human right violations, but to also consider reparations for the victims of abuses, promote reconciliation and promote non-reoccurrence.
ESTABLISHING AN IMPARTIAL HISTORICAL RECORD OF HUMAN RIGHT ABUSES FROM JULY 1994-JAN 2017
The main task of the TRRC is to establish an impartial historical record of human right abuses (such as killings, disappearances, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, false HIV treatment program, Witchcraft accusation and persecutions against some communities) from July 1994 to January 2017. In doing this, the commission may gather by means it deems appropriate, any information it considers relevant, including the ability to request reports, records, documents or any information from any source, including governmental authorities, and to compel the production of such information as and when necessary. The commission may also visit any establishment or place without giving prior notice, for any purpose which is relevant to the fulfillment of the commission’s mandate. It is also mandated to interview any individual, group, members of organizations and institutions at the discretion of the commission to conduct such interviews in private
PROMOTE HEALING AND RECONCILIATION
The will also pursue the promotion of healing and reconciliation by engaging in programs and activities that shall encourage self-healing, forgiveness as well as community and national dialogue and peace-building. Through its reconciliation Unit and reconciliation committee, the TRRC has identified different levels to the reconciliation process. Firstly, a need to help victims deal with their personal self-healing after their ordeals is deemed necessary. Secondly, the TRRC will facilitate individual reconciliation for victims and perpetrators where perpetrators have admitted to having committed human right abuses and are willing and ready to apologies to victims (who have also accepted this request from the perpetrator). Reconciliation will also focus on peacebuilding within communities that are divided over certain issues in order to reintegrate everyone in the community and help sow the seed of unity, mutual respect, tolerance and love. Finally, the ultimate of the reconciliation process is to promote national healing and reconciliation. Having both victims and perpetrators living alongside each other will invariably cause tensions and the TRRC thus aims to encourage Gambians to focus on our commonalities going forward and cast aside differences that will create tension and animosity. The TRRC will promote interest in the “common good” above ethnic and other affiliations so that we may all live in unity freedom and peace each day.
CONSIDER REPARATIONS FOR VICTIMS
Upon consideration of evidence received or obtained, where the TRRC is convinced that a person has been the victim of human rights violations, considerations will be made for the granting of reparation in an endeavor to restore the human and civil dignity of the victim. However, reparations can also be given in the for of urgent interim measures where for example victims or witnesses are in dire need of help e.g. medical support. The TRRC has already had the Ministry of Health set up a medical Board to assess victims and report on what their needs are, so that necessary steps can be taken to facilitate their treatment. Reconciliation can be in many other formats too, e.g. rehabilitation, restitution, memorialization and compensation.
PROMOTE NON-REOCCURENCE AND ‘’NEVER AGAIN’’
The TRRC also has as part of its mandate, the promotion of non-reoccurrence of the human rights violations. Alongside the truth seeking process which is achieved through the hearings, as well as the consideration of granting of reparations, the TRRC will undertake community outreach and engagement activities all of which aim to enable the nation to learn the lessons from the past and ensure mechanisms are put in place to make sure they don’t happen again. This objective will be further bolstered by the recommendations that will be included in the final report to be submitted by the TRRC at the end of its mandate. This role of the TRRC to promote non-reoccurrence (Never Again) is what will tie its work into the broader transitional justice objectives of the Gambia.
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Taking statements from victims, perpetrators, witnesses and experts will be one of the main activities of TRRC work and the primary source of investigative materials. Statement taking will be conducted in local languages at commission headquarters or at regional offices, and by a team of mobile statement-takers. The TRRC approach to taking victim, witness and perpetrator statements will be carefully adapted to local considerations to ensure the process does not negatively disrupt communities or accidently expose cause undue harm to victims.
Investigators will gather evidence, verify testimony and conduct detailed investigations into selected cases. In other instance, the goal of investigations is to understand and establish wider patterns, causes and consequences of human rights violations. The TRRC may conduct research on thematic topics such as underlying causes of conflict, economic and social impacts of the dictatorship, women’s experiences and issues affecting children and youth. Investigations will be the basis for commission findings and recommendations of the TRRC as well as the basis for recommending prosecutions and amnesties.
At the end of its work, the TRRC will present the President will a report detailing its operations, findings and recommendations. The recommendations of the TRRC will be the result of thorough, objective and methodological research and investigations. This report will include recommendations regarding prosecutions and amnesties, institutional and judicial reforms, memorialization and civic education programs. Such recommendations also aim to prevent perpetrators of gross human rights violations from staying within the public service or holding important public office. The recommendations may also include the establishment of institutions to build upon and implement important aspects of the truth commission findings after the commission itself is dissolved.
A national reparations program will be informed by TRRC investigations and community outreach. The reparations program will be based on broad consultations with the victims’ community, civil society and experts. In many cases, reparations will take a symbolic and community-based form such as assistance with medical needs, educational opportunities, memorialization and community services rather than cash sums. To the fullest extent possible, TRRC will help ensure the Gambian government makes these reparations available to victims and their close relatives in a timely, equitable and consultative manner.
Prosecutions of persons who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations is a goal linked to the TRRC mandate. The TRRC will be responsible for evaluating perpetrator testimony and recommending prosecutions or amnesty based on accounts of victims, perpetrators and witnesses as well as thorough investigations into these cases. The TRRC may recommend amnesty to a person making a full disclosure of his or her involvement in human rights violations or abuses. Amnesty will only be applied in consultation with victims of the applicant’s crimes and cannot be applied to grave violations of human rights such as torture, forced disappearance or sexual violence.
Supporting reconciliation between individuals and at a national level is a long-term goal of the TRRC. Achieving reconciliation is a long process that will be led by Gambian citizens. Reconciliation cannot be imposed on the anyone and it cannot be premised on insisting victims forgive those who wronged them. What reconciliation means to Gambians and how it will be reached cannot be decided on behalf of victims nor of the country at large. It is a road we must walk together. TRRC will work with communities to support community reconciliation, memorialization, local memory and dialogue initiatives according to the expressed wishes of the community itself. The commission will seek assistance of traditional and religious leaders to facilitate reconciliation and healing.