Understanding the TRRC

Understanding the TRRC

We received many questions about the TRRC and its work.

Some of the answers sought are still unknown. This is because the TRRC’s objectives, operations and outcomes will be shaped through ongoing consultation with citizens. 

Some commonly asked questions are answered here:

You can also explore this site to find information on:

Giving a Statement

Reparations

TRRC Leadership

Appointing Commissioners

Support to Victims

Women in the TRRC

How does the TRRC work?

Children & Youth

How to be involved

 

Amnesties & Prosecutions

Why have a truth commission in Gambia?

We have launched the TRRC because ignoring the terrible crimes of our recent past will undermine the values we need in order to rebuild a peaceful society and a trusted government.  
  

Gambians are still coming to terms with the Jammeh dictatorship and the extensive legacy of grave human rights violations perpetrated by that regime. For the past 22 years, Gambians lived under authoritarian rule characterized by state sponsored murders and disappearances as well as arbitrary arrests, detention and torture.  Widespread gender-based violence further characterised the regime with allegations emerging of state sponsored sexual violence in governance and security institutions. The Jammeh dictatorship is also known for the practice of forcing HIV-positive people to go through dangerous experimental “treatments” that resulted in many deaths, trauma and suffering.   Beyond human rights violations, the legacies of the Jammeh area are further felt in the breakdown of governing institutions.  As tactics for preserving authoritarian rule, the former regime tampered with the constitution and laws of the country and manipulated the security forces. 

Who is part of the TRRC?

The voices of all citizens have an important role in the TRRC. Transitional justice is a process that aims to engage the whole of society, giving special attention to those who are often denied the chance to be heard during important decision making. Citizens from all walks of life are encouraged to engage with our work. We strive to ensure all voices can be heard and represented in accordance with the specific needs and potentials of individuals. 

Civil society organizations are integral to the work of the TRRC as leaders in the educative, outreach and public engagement elements of the truth commission. The TRRC is committed to strengthening partnerships with civil society and is actively reaching out to these important stakeholders as partners and as watchdogs.

A victim centred approach guides our operation. We are committed to consultation with victims throughout the process. Visit the ‘Victim Space’ of this website for detailed information.

What does the term “transition justice” mean?

Transitional justice is a term referring to all the projects, initiatives and efforts a country and community looks to in order to move forward after a period of terrible violence and human rights violations. These are ideas and initiatives that are developed to address the fact that widespread human rights violations cannot be ignored without the very likely chance that terrible violence will with occur again.

We turn to transitional justice at times when the atrocities and human rights violations that took place are so widespread that the usual legal or community approaches we use for addressing such crimes cannot address the magnitude of the suffering and injustice inflicted.

 

The term transitional justice therefore refers to everything we do to rebuild in the most difficult contexts: contexts where just and peaceful resolution to past crimes seem impossible to pursue because government institutions are weakened and communities are at risk of being torn part. Transitional justice therefore refers to all the initiatives and innovations a society adopts to find a way forward despite all these challenges in order to secure both peace and justice for all citizens. 

What will the TRRC achieve?

The TRRC could help build a new relationship between citizenry and the state.  We aim to build this new relationship based on civic trust. Towards this goal, the TRRC offers a platform to understand the past, to record the truth about our history, to ignite public discussion, to create new spaces for public engagement. It is also a way to engender inclusive participation of all citizens in public life.

TRRC aims not merely to undercover the truth or ensure accountability and reparation. The further challenge is to overcome the legacies of authoritarianism and establish a society based on democratic principles.  Gambia is now presented with an opportunity to make lasting and wide-reaching social change by addressing the lingering sources of oppression.

Goals of the TRRC include:

  • Strengthening rule of law and building truth between citizens and the state.

  • Justice and reparations for victims of the crimes committed by the former regime.

  • Increased inclusion of women, children and marginalized groups in public life and strengthening of their rights and access to justice.

  • Promoting a peaceful and reconciled society that values diversity.

  • Creation of new and meaningful roles for citizens to participate in public life.

  • Ensuring dictatorship never happens again by shedding light on and overcoming the legacies of authoritarianism within state institutions and civic life.

How will the TRRC go about its work?

The operational mandate will last for an initial period of two years and may be extended by the President. During its period of operations, the Commission will seek to uncover the truth about Gambia’s recent past through an inclusive and objective research strategy. This work includes consultations with stakeholders, inviting testimony from victims, witness and alleged perpetrators, and investigations into select cases.

The TRRC will provide victims and witnesses an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations and abuses suffered. Where appropriate, the commission will also hear testimony from alleged and identified perpetrators. These statements will be complimented by investigations and research, creating an impartial historical record of the nature, causes and extent of violations and abuses of human rights committed during the period July 1994 to January 2017.  To the fullest extent possible, the TRRC will also establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of disappeared victims.  

Following these investigations, the commission recommend the granting of reparations to victims and prosecutions or amnesties for perpetrators.

Explore this website for additional information on:

  • Statement taking

  • Research and Investigations

  • Victim-Centred Approach

  • ‘Never Again’ Campaign

  • Children, Students & Youth

  • Women’s role in the TRRC

  • Public Hearings

  • Recommendations and reports

 What other transitional justice mechanisms operate in the Gambia?

The TRRC alone is unable to address all aspects of institutional failure, criminal actions and social break done that contributed to the establishment and rule of the previous regime.  

The TRRC strives to work in coordination with all transitional justice mechanisms adopted in The Gambia.  As defined in Gambia’s National Development Program, urgent priorities of the new Gambia include “restoring good governance, rebuilding, and restoring public confidence in key institutions, upholding human rights and strengthening access to justice”. 

  • Civil service reforms aim to create credible, functioning, transparent and accountable institutions that engender trust and participation from citizens. 

  • The Human Rights Commission aims to help end human rights violations in The Gambia by monitoring ongoing instances in an effort to seek effective remedy for victims and to recommend reforms both to state institutions and civic life. 
  • The Constitutional Review Commission aims to promote national unity and democratic principles through a comprehensive review of the existing constitution and by engaging the public in drafting and adopting a new constitution. 

  • The Land Commission will help ensure equitable redress for loss of land and property under the Jammeh regime and help resolve ongoing land conflicts in a manner that fosters reconciliation and community cohesiveness.

                                                             

What are “public hearings”?

The term ‘public hearings’ refers to public audiences that a truth commission holds where victims, witnesses and sometimes also perpetrators are invited to give a statement to the Commissioners and the wider public.  These forums are sometimes referred to as ‘sittings of the Commission’.  These forums are public and televised, allowing the nation to learn about past human rights violations from those who experienced it first-hand. 

Public hearings should not be confused with courtroom proceedings or a public interrogation. Although there are some global examples of public hearings that resembled a courtroom, this is not the most common approach.   In other examples public hearings have resembled a speaker’s panel, a community dialogue or a townhall. The goal is to give victims and witnesses an opportunity to present their own account of events to the Commission and to the country. 

Not every victim and witness can speak during public hearing. Generally, only a certain percent of those who give a statement to the commission will later be invited to present their testimony to the commissioners and the public. That said, everyone who wishes to speak with the Commission will have the opportunity to give their testimony to a statement-taker either in a TRRC regional or national office, or with a travel team of statement-takers.  

What will public hearings look like at the TRRC?

The TRRC has yet not decided what its public hearings will look like. This is a decision for the Commissioners to make in consultation with the victim community and other stakeholders.   Truth commissions from around the world have adapted quite different approaches when designing their public hearings. Many commissions have chosen to hold no public hearings at all.  There is no one best model when it comes to designing public hearings.  The ‘correct’ approach in Gambia will be one adapted to the realities of Gambian society and developed in close consultation with the victims’ community.