A human rights group on Friday lauded the establishment of a joint United Nations-Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) team to investigate the murder of some 44 Ghanaians and West Africans in the Gambia in July 2005.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said the establishment of the joint team was “a positive signal that vindicates previous misgivings surrounding the occurrence of the incident”.
“We hope, as civil society, this action will bring the much-desired outcome of a comprehensive independent investigation that will unearth the facts with the full cooperation of the states concerned and possibly identify and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” Nana Oye Lithur, CHRI Coordinator, said.
She appealed to the team to press for justice saying once the perpetrators have been identified, they should be prosecuted.
Nana Oye said the membership, terms of reference, constitution and working timeframe of the team must be made known to the public to dispel any fears of bias and prejudice.
She also said the public must be included in the investigation process, which must be conducted in the open.
Most importantly, the victims’ families should be consulted to share their experiences, which would help in assessing a suitable remedy for the case.
The victims’ families and witnesses must be assured of protection and sheltered from any possible threats.
Some 44 West Africans, mainly Ghanaians, who were on their way to Europe were arrested in the Gambia, before they could board a ship, and killed, according to an eye witness account.
Several attempts by the Ghanaian authorities to get the Gambian government to investigate the murders and punish the culprits have been fallen on deaf ears.
Human rights groups led by the CHRI have persistently lobbied for the intervention of neutral oversight bodies like the UN, ECOWAS and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the quest for justice on behalf of the innocent victims but without much success. Panapress.