Relatives of people murdered under the regime of The Gambia’s former ruler, Yahya Jammeh say they are outraged by the release of three self-confessed assassins from custody.
The trio of Malick Jatta, Omar Jallow and Amadou Badjie who were members of a paramilitary unit known as the ‘Junglers’ were released from army custody two weeks after they appeared before the country’s Truth Commission.
“Our team was a hit squad for Yahya Jammeh. We had blind loyalty for Yahya Jammeh,” Mr Badjie told the Commission which Jammeh has vehemently refused to co-operate with.
The three assassins were arrested by the country’s military police in 2017 after President Adama Barrow took office in December 2016 following an election which brought an end to Mr. Jammeh’s 22-year rule.
Jammeh initially refused to give up power but was forced into exile after regional countries sent troops to force him to step down.
Barrow set up the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed during Jammeh’s rule, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention.
During the hearings, the assassins alleged that Jammeh ordered several murders which they carried out, including the notorious 2013 killing of two US-Gambian businessmen and veteran local journalist, Deyda Hydara.
“I feel so disrespected as a mother that my government is setting free the men who confessed to the savage killing of my son,” Ya Mamie Cessay, mother of murdered businessman, Alhaji Ceesay was quoted by campaign group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) as saying.
However, the country’s Justice Minister, Abubacarr Tambadou defended the decision to release the three, arguing that the move would encourage other human rights violators to testify.
“The TRRC is not a court of law and one of its primary objectives is to establish the truth. What we must not do is to scare people away from telling the truth because that will not be in anyone’s interest,” Tambadou said.
News of the three soldiers’ release has caused outcry not just from relatives of the victims, but also the general public with most of them appealing to the government to ensure that the confessed killers were not returned to their streets.