Three self-confessed assassins under Gambia’s former ruler Yahya Jammeh were released from army custody last week. A ruling that outraged the relatives of people killed under his regime.
Malick Jatta, Omar Jallow and Amadou Badjie were members of a paramilitary unit known as the “Junglers”.
They were released after appearing before the country’s truth commission.
“Our team was a hit squad for Yahya Jammeh, we had blind loyalty for the former ruler,” Mr. Badjie told the commission.
The three assassins had been arrested by military police in 2017, when President Adama Barrow took office after his presidential elections victory in December 2016 to end Mr. Jammeh’s 22-year rule.
Mr. Jammeh initially refused to relinquish power but went into exile after regional states sent troops to force him to step down.
The current president then set up the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed during Mr. Jammeh’s rule, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention.
It is claimed that Jammeh has since refused to cooperate with the commission.
During the hearings, the assassins accused the former ruler of ordering them to kill, including the notorious 2013 murders of two US-Gambian businessmen and veteran local journalist Deyda Hydara.
“I feel so disrespected as a mother that my government is setting free the men who confessed to the savage killing of my son,” Ya Mamie Cessay, mother of murdered businessman Alhaji Ceesay, was quoted by campaign group Human Rights Watch as saying.
Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou, however, defended the decision to release the three, saying it would encourage other 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.