July 23, 2024
Home » ECOWAS defers Gambia’s Special Tribunal proposal

ECOWAS defers Gambia’s Special Tribunal proposal

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The quest for justice in The Gambia has encountered a significant delay as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mediation and Security Council defers the country’s proposal to establish a Special Tribunal.

This development follows a series of discussions and consultations aimed at addressing crimes committed between July 1994 and January 2017, as recommended by The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC).


The TRRC’s extensive investigation led to the recommendation for prosecuting approximately 69 individuals for various crimes, including international offences. The Gambian government accepted these recommendations and initiated the formation of a Special Accountability Mechanism, comprising the Special Prosecutor’s Office, the Special Criminal Division of the High Court, and the Special Hybrid Tribunal.

In October 2022, The Gambia proposed a partnership with the ECOWAS Commission to establish a special tribunal dedicated to these prosecutions. Since February 2024, both entities have collaborated through a Joint Technical Committee to develop the tribunal’s Statute and Decision, intended for approval by ECOWAS Heads of State.

A key milestone was reached between June 10 and 12, 2024, when technical experts from ECOWAS member states’ Ministries of Justice convened in Banjul. They reviewed and recommended the Draft Statute and Decision for adoption by the ECOWAS Ministers of Justice. Subsequently, on June 29, 2024, the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council at the Ambassadorial Level deferred the memorandum for further consultation at the Ministers of Justice level, following procedural requirements.

The Ministers of Justice met on July 2, 2024, to consider and adopt the Experts’ Report, approving the Draft Statute and Decision for the Special Tribunal. However, during the Ministerial Level meeting on July 3, 2024, the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council deferred the memorandum’s consideration to their next session. This deferral means the proposal will not be addressed at the 65th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments scheduled for July 7, 2024.

Adding to the complexity, the ECOWAS Commission sought the opinion of the ECOWAS Parliament, which deliberated on the matter on July 5, 2024. While the Parliament recognized The Gambia’s right to establish a Special Tribunal, it expressed concerns over ECOWAS’s involvement in the process. Consequently, the Parliament rendered an unfavorable opinion by voting against the proposal.

The adoption of the Decision and Statute for the Special Tribunal would have marked a significant milestone for The Gambia and the broader ECOWAS community in their transitional justice endeavors. Despite this setback, the Gambian government remains resolute in its commitment to seeking justice for past atrocities.

The Ministry of Justice, representing the government’s dedication, will continue to work closely with the ECOWAS Commission, Member States, and other partners to foster understanding and garner support for the Special Tribunal. The objective remains to establish a suitable framework that ensures accountability and justice for the crimes committed during the specified period.

The Gambian government, backed by its Ministry of Justice, continues its unwavering pursuit of justice. The deferral by ECOWAS is a temporary hurdle in the broader endeavor to address historical injustices and ensure a future of accountability and reconciliation.

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