Gruesome horrendous prison conditions and images in the tiny West African nation of the Gambia shown on national television and social media today shocked the conscience of civilized people and the world. The Gambian minister of interior Mai Ahmed Fatty and his counterpart justice minister Ba Tambedou’s visit to the country’s notorious national Mile II prisons revealed to the world the level of crimes against humanity Yahya Jammeh and his government committed against Gambian citizens. The conditions of prisoner witnessed by these new leaders could only be described as worst than Nazi concentration camps in Berlin during World II. No human being deserve to be treated in such an inhumane manner while the world looks the other way.
What these images revealed about the Jammeh government are a strong case the United Nations, the Gambia government and other International human rights groups have against Gambia’s former dictator who fled to exile. The images unbelievably confirmed two decades of human degradation, torture and extrajudicial killings Yahya Jammeh and his heartless men have been accused of by Gambian dissidents and human rights groups. In a country that was neither in civil war no any form of conflict to subject its citizens to such barbaric acts of inhumanity is beyond anything one could imagine. To see eye witnesses at the notorious Mile II prison Jammeh frequently calls his “five Star hotel” describe how prisoners were being treated in this hell hole of a prison brought tears and unbearable anger to many Gambians. Though many activists and those who served jail sentences at Mile II have long decried the conditions, people could not believe their eyes seeing prisoners possibly mentally ill chained and soaked in urine and human faeces in the most dirtiest of places. If tears could run down many people’s cheeks just viewing those images, imagine the people who were physically subjected to those inhumane conditions?
The question that many people are asking human rights groups, the new government in the Gambia and the United Nations is whether Yahya Jammeh doesn’t deserved to be arrested and prosecuted for crimes against humanity? It is clear without a doubt that Yahya Jammeh and the Gambia government deliberately violated International Human Rights conventions to torture, kill and treated citizens in the most brutal manner ever seen in West Africa. Readers may recalled that President Jammeh in 2014 denied The United Nations Special Rapporteurs Christof Heyns and Juan Méndez from visiting sensitive areas of the notorious Mile II prisons. This denial was followed by several other attempts by human rights groups and UN representatives to assess prison conditions in the Gambia. Former dictator Jammeh and his men repeatedly denied these human rights violations in front of the whole world and under oath. These are in fact the conditions they were hiding from the world. What is even more shocking is the presence of the African Commission on Human and People’s rights headquartered right there in the Gambia. For such a commission to remain present in Gambia without making any efforts to reveal the condition of such prisons is simply incomprehensible.
It can be strongly and unquestionably argued that the United Nations and the Gambia government have the evidence to sermon former President Jammeh to testify on crimes against Gambian citizens. This medium and many others are with the conviction that the Mile II images are just tip of the iceberg of the magnitude of crimes Yahya Jammeh committed against Gambian citizens. There are alleged mass graves, old wells and secret killing locations where Yahya Jammeh and his men tortured and murdered citizens in cold blood. People were allegedly slaughtered like lamb and their human bloods used for rituals by the dictator. With the dawn of the new government in the Gambia, pressure must be mounted on security officers who were in charge of these institutions to come clean and reveal everything they know about Jammeh and his NIA crimes. In witnessing the gruesome conditions and human savagery in Mile II committed by the Jammeh regime, the UN must sermon an emergency meeting to bring a case against Yahya Jammeh.
It would be totally unfair and a gross denial of justice to victims should former Dictator Yahya Jammeh be allowed to live a free man when there are ample evidence of crimes against humanity he committed without regard to local and International law. Should the UN failed to take up its responsibility in holding leaders accountable to crimes against humanity, Gambian citizens must be allowed to bring legal action against their former government. This is a moral obligation all citizens particularly victims and their families must take up to file lawsuits in the ECOWAS courts etc. The Barrow government must equally ensure that justice is delivered for the Gambian people. If Charles Taylor and many other leaders who committed such heinous crimes were prosecuted against crimes they committed, there cannot be any excuse to let Yahya Jammeh live free.
The government must team up with International agencies such as Amnesty International to pursue legal actions against Dictator Jammeh. There is certainly a legal recourse both domestic and International to hold Jammeh, the former Director of the NIA Yankuba Badjie, the former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, the Commission of Prisons David Kolley and former Inspector General of police Sonko to answer to these charges of crimes against humanity. Why David Kolley continue to serve as commissioner of Prisons retained by the Barrow government is beyond comprehension. Gambians must not rest until these crimes are paid for and justice delivered on behalf of the victims. Letting these leaders walk free would be sending the wrong message to other dictators that it is alright to commit crimes against citizens and run away without fear of accountability. Mai Fatty and his young colleagues in the government must continue to pursue justice for the Gambian people. It was heart warming to hear the minister openly apologize to prisoners for being treated like animals. Such an action goes a long way to comfort victims. Mr. Fatty must now continue his work to clean the security forces of all those who committed crimes against citizens on behalf of Jammeh. Gainako is embarking on a project to bring to light profiles of those who committed torture, murder and other crimes against Gambian citizens. If you know anybody whose profile needs to be feature you may write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Story filed by Demba Baldeh Associate editor