A victim-led coalition of national and international civil society organisations are mobilising to campaign for the extradition of former President Yahya Jammeh to face trial for alleged crimes against humanity. A number of options for prosecuting Jammeh and core members of his security services are being put forward by the coalition. This includes the regional option of securing Jammeh’s extradition to Ghana to face trial for his role in ordering the summary execution of 56 African migrants, including forty-four Ghanaians. A second possibility would involve establishing a hybrid court in The Gambia, with jurisdiction to hear charges brought against former President Jammeh for the commission of international crimes.
Meanwhile, two former members of Jammeh’s infamous ‘Jungler’ death squad are currently facing charges under international jurisdiction laws in the United States and Switzerland. If these cases progress, they will be the first trials relating to possible international crimes committed by members of the last regime.
Will there be a hybrid court in The Gambia?
A number of options are being explored to bring former President Yahya Jammeh to justice. Of the two most promising options, one is the possibility of extraditing Jammeh to face trial in Ghana, and the other would involve creating a special Chamber for International Crimes within The Gambia. The latter option would be significantly more complex, though possibly more relevant for Gambians, who would see justice being done close to home.
If extradited to Ghana from Equatorial Guinea, where he is currently in exile, Jammeh would most likely face trial within the Ghanaian legal system rather than within a hybrid or internationalised court. In 2005, President Jammeh allegedly ordered the murder of 56 African migrants, including 44 Ghanaians, on suspicion of being mercenaries. In exchange for their release, four former Junglers testified before the TRRC and gave crucial evidence showing that Jammeh had ordered numerous torture and executions, including the summary killing of the African migrants. Under Ghanaian law, most international crimes can be tried in national courts, theoretically rendering it unnecessary to create a hybrid court with special jurisdiction for international crimes.
A second option for bringing Jammeh to trial would involve the creation of a special chamber or a hybrid court within The Gambia. This option could follow the example set in the trial of Hissène Habré, where the Extraordinary African Chambers was established within the Senegalese legal system, and was empowered by the African Union to try international crimes.
Alternatively, Gambia might set up a hybrid court similar to the UN-mandated Sierra Leone Special Court or the currently operational Special Criminal Court in the Central African Republic. This course of action would require creating an internationalised court within The Gambian judiciary, applying a combination of national and international laws and procedures. Moreover, it would likely require significantly more time and financial resources than the Ghanaian option. On the other hand, a special court in The Gambia would allow for much closer engagement on the part of victims and civil society. Potentially, this option could also lead to trials against all of those identified as most responsible for grave human rights violations committed under the last regime, and not just Jammeh himself.