Select staff of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) and some close protection officers of The Gambia Police Force have benefitted from a two-week intensive Witness Protection training for investigators by the International Criminal Court. The training, whose first phase ended on Friday, September 13, was organized by the TRRC with support from the UNDP and facilitated by experts from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Asked what necessitated the training, the Deputy Director of Research and Investigations at the TRRC, Superintendent Abdou A. Manneh, also a lawyer, indicated that witness protection is a critical aspect of their work.
“The TRRC Act mandates us to provide protection for our witnesses and informants. Currently, there is no witness protection unit in The Gambia, and we have been relying on our staff to provide witness protection for our witnesses that are determined through a risk assessment matrix to be at some level of risk. This training is the first phase of what we hope will be a series of trainings that will lead to the establishment of a functional witness protection unit that will ensure that all witnesses of the TRRC and hopefully those that will be part of the judicial process, will feel safe and secure. This training is a first step in that direction”
The training was attended by 25 participants drawn from the Gambia Police Force, staff from Psychosocial, Youth and Children’s Network, and Research and Investigations units of the TRRC. The trainers are from the ICC with a vast knowledge of dealing with witnesses all over the world. The Chief of Victims and Witnesses Section of the ICC and one of his Senior Managers also flew in to initiate conversations on establishing a witness protection program here in The Gambia.
Asked about the training, Alagie Barrow, Director of Research and Investigations for the TRRC indicated that “…this training is long overdue. We have an obligation to each and every individual that steps foot or interacts with the TRRC. We must make sure that this interaction does not become a burden on their life or welfare. We have had witnesses that we had to provide protection for and the weight of someone’s life in your hands is a very heavy weight to bear when you are not as prepared as you possibly should be. Thankfully, we have been able to take care of all those witnesses and ensured their safety and security. But this training will better equip us to be in a better position to protect our witnesses for the TRRC and hopefully for the larger Gambia,” Barrow concluded.
Speaking at a brief closing and certification ceremony, TRRC Executive Secretary Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, thanked the ICC Witnesses and Victims Section and their resource persons for rendering much needed and important support to the Commission. He called on the TRRC staff who benefitted from the training to use their newly acquired knowledge and skills to protect all witnesses that come to the TRRC.