By Desmond Davies, GNA London Bureau Chief
London, Mar. 18, GNA – The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in The Gambia suspended public hearings and outreach activities on Wednesday as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It comes two days after the TRRC began its 13th session, which would have covered a three-week period, ending on April 2.
A TRRC statement said the suspension was in line with the Gambian government’s efforts to contain the virus.
It added: “As the end of this three-week suspension will coincide with the beginning of the Commission’s Ramadan break, public hearings will not resume until after the end of the month of Ramadan, around the first week of June.”
The statement said outreach activities would be resumed “when considered safe to do so”.
During the 12th session, which ended on March 5, the TRRC focused on the arbitrary arrest and detention of public and private citizens.
The suspended 13th session was planning to spend two weeks on hearing evidence of unlawful attacks against road users by former President Yahya Jammeh’s convoys.
The remaining period was to have started the institutional hearing on the prison system and the violation of the rights of the inmates and detainees.
A few weeks ago, the TRRC reached the halfway mark of its two-year mandate.
The Commission said it intended to finish its public hearings during the first week of October, with the rest of the year devoted to preparation of its final report.
Dr Lamin J. Sise, Chairman of the TRRC, says, the hearings had been shocking for Gambians
“The evidence adduced before the Commission during the above-mentioned public hearings shows gross human rights violations against the Gambian people,” he said.
“Since the TRRC’s public hearings began, the conscience of the nation is being repeatedly shocked by the revelations of sheer brutality meted out to victims.
“The revelations have also sparked a serious national conversation and soul-searching that seeks to understand just how such acts of barbarity could happen in this country.
“As we journey further into this second and final year of our mandate, this Commission remains firmly committed to the pursuit of the truth without fear or favour, affection or ill-will with regards to any individual or group of individuals,” Dr. Sise added.
He went on: “We remain committed to the cause of the victims, to the welfare of our nation and to helping guarantee non-recurrence of the senseless violations and abuses that occurred in this country.
“It is in this spirit that the Commission wishes to further encourage all victims of human rights violations and all persons who have information that would be helpful to the Commission’s work to please come forward and share their stories.”
Dr Sise said that although not every witness who gave a statement was guaranteed to testify in a public hearing, “every statement received is a valuable addition to the historical record the Commission is mandated to establish”.