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Germany charges Gambian with crimes against humanity

March 3, 2022

German prosecutors have accused a Gambian man of being involved in killing dissidents during the rule of strongman leader Yahya Jammeh. The suspect allegedly drove members of a paramilitary squad to kill sites.

 Two policemen in front of the Regional Higher Court in Celle
The charges have been filed at the Regional Higher Court in CelleImage: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's federal prosecutors on Thursday said they had filed charges against a former member of the Gambian army, including allegations of participation in crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder.

The alleged crimes were committed from 2003 to 2006 by units deployed by former President Yahya Jammeh to intimidate the population and repress opposition to his rule, they said.

Why is the man on trial?

The man, who was arrested in the north-central German city of Hannover last March, is believed to have been involved in the killings of a government-critical journalist and a suspected rival of the president. Activists allege he was a member of the "Junglers," a notorious pro-Jammeh death squad.

The accused is thought to have driven members of the so-called Patrol Teams, another paramilitary group that eventually merged with the Junglers, to the locations of the killings. He is also believed to have been the driver for another murder attempt whose intended victim, a lawyer, survived with severe injuries.

A court in the west German town of Celle has yet to approve the charges before a date for trial can be set.

Gambian ex-President Yahya Jammeh
Gambia saw numerous human rights violations under Jammeh's ruleImage: Don Emmert/AFP

What was the situation in Gambia like under Jammeh?

Jammeh took power in a bloodless coup in 1994, ruling the country as the head of a military junta before his election as president in 1996.

His 22-year-long rule was characterized by massive human rights violations, including repression of the LGBTQ+ community and opposition figures. Jammeh was eventually forced to leave the country in 2017 after losing a 2016 election to current President Adama Barrow.

Jammeh is now believed to be living in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

Why do African politicians cling to power?

tj/dj (Reuters, dpa, AFP)