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GAMBIA: ECOWAS PARLIAMENT DECLINED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A SPECIAL TRIBUNAL FOR THE GAMBIA

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The Special Tribunal for The Gambia will not be established, as the ECOWAS Parliament has chosen not to take part in it. Following extensive deliberations, the Joint Committee of the Parliament expressed grave concerns on the possible consequences of ECOWAS’s engagement.

Although the committee recognised The Gambia’s right to establish a tribunal to investigate crimes and abuses of human rights that took place between July 22, 1994, and January 21, 2017, it recommended that ECOWAS stay out of this process.

The Gambia’s rights to create a special tribunal and to bring criminal charges for crimes against humanity and grave human rights violations that occurred there between July 22, 1994, and January 21, 2017 are acknowledged by the Joint Committee. According to the committee, the Tribunal’s duties include upholding the rule of law in the Member State, bringing justice to the victims, and fighting impunity.

The committee did, however, voice concerns over ECOWAS’s engagement, pointing out possible threats to the group’s credibility and capacity for mediation in the event that the tribunal’s operations encounter difficulties.

“ECOWAS could lose its authority to mediate if the Tribunal’s processes are contested or called into question. There won’t be somewhere else in the subregion to turn, which could make the problems worse, the committee warned.

In light of these worries, the Joint Committee recognises The Gambia’s right to create any Special Tribunal it sees fit in order to provide justice for its people. It does, however, imply that ECOWAS should not be involved in this.

In light of this, the Joint Committee suggested that Plenary issue an unfavourable opinion about the draft decision to establish a Special Tribunal for The Gambia and the approval of the statute pertaining to it.

Five Gambian politicians made strong arguments in favour of ECOWAS’s participation, but most parliamentarians were against the concept, according to OKFM. They argued that ECOWAS’s neutrality and efficacy would be compromised by its dual function as a mediator and participant. Liberian lawmakers Taa Wongbe and Edwin Snowe supported the majority position.

“The lawmakers from Gambia contended that after years of crimes and atrocities against them, the people of Gambia need and deserve justice, and they begged ECOWAS to help in the process.” Opposing lawmakers pointed out that while the Gambia can establish its own court through its constitutional and other legal mechanisms, ECOWAS is not allowed to be a party to it. Speaking on the floor, Taa Wongbe and Edwin Snowe, two Liberian parliamentarians, expressed their support for the majority ruling, according to OKFM in Abuja.

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