Six Penn Law Students Publish Investigation On Access To Justice In The Gambia

The report is based on the preliminary findings on access to justice and transitional justice in The Gambia following the authoritarian rule of Yahya Jammeh.

This working report is based on an independent-fact-finding-investigation conducted by six University of Pennsylvania Law Students—Brendan Holman, Kunal Kanodia, Abraham Moussako, Ryan Plesh, Fatoumata Waggeh, and Meroua Zouai—from August 24, 2019 to August 31, 2019, including background research conducted at the Law School weeks before the fieldwork. The delegation of law students conducted interviews with members of  the government and civil society, including journalists, attorneys, human rights defenders, activists, academics, civil servants, security agents, and government officials. The students were supervised by Penn Law Associate Dean of International Affairs Rangita de Silva de Alwis and received institutional support from Dean Theodore Ruger and  Professor Regina Austin. The financial support for the mission was made possible by the Chubb Rule of Law Fund.

This current report is a working draft based on the preliminary findings on access to justice and transitional justice in The Gambia following the authoritarian rule of Yahya Jammeh. A bloodless coup on July 22, 1994 marked the start of a 22-year-long repressive rule under the Gambia’s exiled former president, Yahya Jammeh. The Jammeh regime reinforced a climate of fear throughout the entire country. Intimidation by way of forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and the silencing of dissent allowed Jammeh to win three elections, before his ultimate defeat by Adama Barrow in 2016. Barrow’s entry into office was a shift in The  Gambia’s history, from an era tainted with violence and impunity to the start of one defined by transitional justice and respect for a rule of law.  The fact – finding was conducted to understand a nation that is rebuilding its rule of law, and the lessons that we can learn from and share with other nations emerging from conflict, and with international institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank and the IDLO which support access to justice and transitional justice in post- conflict.  Apart from the UN, the World Bank and the IDLO, the report is also submitted to the Cyrus Vance Center for International Justice in New York. Students will present their findings to Justice Sisi  Khampepe of the South African Constitutional Court and formerly of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission on October 16th when she visits Penn Law to mark 25 years after the end of apartheid.

View full report here.

Updated October 18, 2019 from a September 27, 2019 version.

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