By Pap Saine and Edward McAllister
BANJUL - Gambia's Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) wrapped up a sweeping three-year public inquiry on Thursday by recommending prosecutions for abuses committed during former President Yahya Jammeh's rule.
The commission delivered its full report to President Adama Barrow, nine days before a presidential election in which the exiled Jammeh has urged his supporters to vote for an opposition coalition.
Nearly 400 witnesses testified before the TRRC, including the victims and perpetrators of the torture, killings and looting that characterised Jammeh's 22-year rule.
"To forgive and forget with impunity the violations and abuses ... would not only undermine reconciliation but would also constitute a massive and egregious cover-up of the crimes committed," the commission said in a statement.
At a news conference, commission chairman Lamin Sise declined to comment on who specifically should be targeted for prosecution. Barrow or his successor will have six months to decide how to respond to the report.
It could form the basis for criminal proceedings against Jammeh and others.
Jammeh is in exile in Equatorial Guinea where he fled after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in the 2016 election. He was not reachable for comment on Thursday. He has previously denied allegations of wrongdoing.
Even if Jammeh is found guilty, he may not face punishment. Under Gambian law, a former head of state cannot be prosecuted unless parliament approves proceedings by a two-thirds majority.
Witnesses before the commission detailed how Jammeh ordered killings of political opponents. Malick Jatta, an army lieutenant close to Jammeh, said the former president paid over $1,000 each to members of his security service who killed newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.
Sergeant Omar Jallow told the commission that in 2005 Jammeh ordered the killing https://www..com/article/us-gambia-justice-idUSKBN1AK1CP of 59 unarmed migrants that Jammeh thought had come to overthrow him.
Fatou Jallow, the winner of a 2014 beauty pageant, testified that Jammeh raped her when she was 19.
(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Aaron Ross and Mark Potter)