Statement by the Chair, Dr. Lamin J. Sise – Monday, February 11, 2019
Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) – Second Session
As we embark on this second session of the TRRC hearings, please allow us to update the public on the modest progress we have made so far.
In spite of a few technological hitches, our first session which focused on the July 1994 went very well. The Commission heard testimonies from 13 witnesses, most of them serving or retired officers of the Gambian security forces. The evidence that came from these testimonies puts the Commission in a good position to establish a reasonably accurate historical record of how and why the coup of July 22nd 1994 happened, who the main players were, and how institutional failures and policy lapses contributed to its success. A good picture also emerges of the nature and extent of human rights violations that occurred during and immediately after the July 22nd 1994 coup.
We are happy to announce, at this point, that the Commission will spend the first few days of this second session to hearing more testimonies directly relevant to July 22nd, 1994 coup.
As the public has already been informed, this second session will focus mainly on the events of November 11, 1994 when a number of soldiers lost their lives.
Much like the July 22nd coup, the Commission is interested in hearing the truth of how and why November 11 happened, who the main actors were, and ultimately, the whereabouts of those who disappeared. We are confident that this session will yield invaluable insight into the true circumstances surrounding an event that, until now, is shrouded in mystery. We invite the general public to help us get to the bottom of what happened on November 11, 1994 in the name of justice and healing.
According to our work plan, this is the second of eight sessions scheduled for 2019. Each session will last for three weeks. One week of each month will be devoted to committee work and review of outreach activities that may not be possible during sittings. The public will be kept informed about future sessions.
As we begin this second session, we want to remind the general public that the TRRC is not a court of law. It is also not a witch hunting exercise against any individual or institution. Whatever we do, we do it in pursuit of the objectives of the Commission as mandated by the TRRC Act, namely to “create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights from July 1994 to January 2017, in order to … promote healing and reconciliation . . . respond to the needs of the victims . . . address impunity . . . prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered by making recommendations for the establishment of appropriate preventive mechanisms including institutional and legal reforms . . . establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of disappeared victims . . . provide victims an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations and abuses suffered; and . . . grant reparations to victims in appropriate cases.” We are and will remain resolutely committed to the attainment of these objectives throughout our mandate period. The TRRC is a victim-centered exercise. The Commission will always be guided by this principle.
We have noticed an emerging trend whereby persons who feel that they have been adversely mentioned or who possess some information about matters being testified about would go to the press to make statements that are aimed at contradicting the testimony made before the Commission.
The TRRC’s Provisional Rules of Procedure mandate that persons who have been adversely mentioned be afforded the opportunity to state their own side of the story by way of a written statement or personal appearance. These persons are being directly contacted by the Commission, served with Notices of Adverse Mention and formally invited to respond to the allegations. It is therefore not necessary for such individuals to attempt to litigate the issues in the public media.
Meanwhile members of the public and armed and security forces who have information or are victims of human rights violations during the mandate period are requested and strongly encouraged to come forward and submit complaints.
As always, we seek the prayers, support and understanding of the general public as we welcome you to this second session of the TRRC hearings.