(JollofNews) – Diaspora based Gambian activists have expressed disappointment at the refusal of the chief prosecutor of International Criminal Court’s to investigate human rights abuses of the Gambian regime.
The tiny West African state is being ruled with an iron fist by President Yahya Jammeh who seized power in July 1994. His regime is accused by rights groups of gross human rights violations including summary executions, arbitrary arrests, and continuous clamp down on the media.
Recently, his regime has come under severe criticisms after it launched a brutal crackdown on members of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) who took to the streets in April to demand for electoral reform and the resignation of Mr Jammeh..
But on Wednesday, the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, told the Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio that while her court has territorial jurisdiction in the Gambia and is monitoring the situation in the West African state, it does not interfere in political affairs of any country.
“What we at the ICC look for is war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide which is the mandate of the institution and this is what has to be understood,” Mrs Bensouda said.
“These crimes have their specific elements and we look at them very closely to see whether those elements are present. It has to be clear that the ICC is not a human rights court but a court that deals with specific crimes under the Rome Statue.
“Those that reacted to President Jammeh’s threat of burying his critics ‘nine feet deep’ did so based on human rights, my mandate is crime and if these crimes have been committed it would have been different. We are assessing what is going on in the Gambia but it is not yet the time for the prosecutor of the ICC to make a statement.”
But the activists said Mrs Bensouda is wrong to continue to turn a blind eye on the human rights situation in the Gambia.
Former spokesperson of the Gambia’s military regime, Retired Captain Ebou Jallo, said Mrs Bensouda has the mandate to investigate
allegations of rape, torture and the murder of Solo Sanding, all of which are crimes against humanity.
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Jallo added: “The ICC has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute in any country where (a) the country ratified the Rome Statute; and (b) the state is unwillingly to carry out investigations or the state is protecting the perpetrators of crimes. The Gambia today satisfies both conditions (a) and (b) and as such my sister, Fatou Bom, has a moral obligation to both request for an investigation, and if granted, prosecute the criminals in Yaya Jammeh’s government.
“According to ICC’s operational definitions, “Crimes against humanity” include any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: murder; extermination; imprisonment; torture; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural,religious or gender grounds; enforced disappearance of persons; other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.
“Members of the UDP political group have been subjected to such atrocities according to their written sworn testimonies and Solo Sanding has “disappeared” under government custody. Somebody MUST be held accountable for crimes against humanity as soon as possible.”
Also disagreeing with Mrs Bensouda, Binneh S. Minteh, adjunct professor at Rutgers University said: “Mrs Bensouda’s reasons for the court’s silence in the case of the Gambia are laughable and irresponsible as the chief prosecutor. Since, the Rome Statute provides jurisdiction of the ICC over war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crime of aggression, it is irresponsible of a chief prosecutor to separate crimes under ICC jurisdiction from human rights violations.
“Arguably the ICC was founded on the basis of punishing gross violations of human rights in the context of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression , and genocide. In that context, there are defined indications of crimes against humanity committed in the Gambia: there is torture, rape and murder committed in the Gambia at some degree. Perhaps, the only responsible statement made by Mrs Bensouda during the interview was her emphasis that the ICC was monitoring the situation in the Gambia.”
Yankuba Dabo, an immigration lawyer in the UK and prominent activist also described Mrs Bensouda’s explanations as
quite simply inaccurate flawed and contrived.
Writing on the online Gambian newspaper, Kibaaro, Mr Dabo said: “Madam prosecutor’s explanations are quite simply inaccurate, flawed and contrived, to simply justify her hypocrisy and indifference to the crimes of her former boss Dictator Yahya Jammeh, against her own people of the Gambia, including her former colleague at the Gambian Bar and opposition leader, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe. Otherwise, if the Madam Prosecutor truly believes and meant what she explained in the interview, then she does not understand the role of her court and was wrong to postulate that her critics confused her court, as being a human rights court.
“Human rights are quite simply what could be best described as the God-given rights to every human being; such as the right to life, right to justice, rights to freedom from torture, false imprisonment, rights to family life, private life, religion, political opinion, etc. Issues relating to this matters in states, where such rights are valued, respected and protected are usually dealt with by the traditional courts of those states. In Europe, the highest appellate court for such cases is the ECHR and in US Supreme Court, as well as in many other countries. These are the courts, the ICC Madam Prosecutor, in this interview, wants us to believe are human rights courts, but not hers, the ICC. This is quite simply a buffoonery.”