Outrage in Gambia over release of ex-president's hitmen

Relatives of people murdered by death squads in The Gambia expressed outrage on Monday over the release of three former hitmen, who said they committed dozens of assassinations ordered by ex-president Yahya Jammeh.

The men, who were part of an unofficial paramilitary unit known as the Junglers, were freed from army custody two weeks after appearing before the West African country's Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).

During the hearings, the assassins accused Jammeh – who ruled the country for 22 years – of ordering multiple murders, including the 2013 killings of two U.S.-Gambians and Deyda Hydara, co-founder of The Point newspaper and AFP's correspondent in The Gambia for 30 years.

"It's wrong to hear all these confessions, then release the killers out in our streets, out in our communities, out in our societies," his son, Baba Hydara, told AFP.

In a statement, Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou said his decision to release the three men – Malick Jatta, Omar Jallow and Amadou Badjie – was to encourage other alleged human rights violators to testify.

"What we must not do is to scare people away from telling the truth because that will not be in anyone's interest," he said.

"Every victim family deserves to know the truth about their loved ones."

The TRRC hearings, modeled on South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, started in January and resumed on Monday.

The hearings are expected to take two years. At the end, the body can make recommendations with regard to prosecution or reparation but cannot itself issue any sentences.

Source(s): AFP