Editorial: Gambian Courts and the International community must take claims of Torture seriously





Evidence as well as allegations of torture of prisoners and detained Gambian citizens in the hands of Gambia’s National intelligence agents and members of Jammeh’s security officers has been apparent in the Gambia for the last decade or more. We have seen citizens among them journalists; political opponents, APRC loyalists who fall apart with the government and ordinary citizens arrested for alleged crimes suffer severe tortures in the hands of Gambia’s security forces. Physical evidence of torture has even been produced before Gambian courts including the high court by citizens accused of crimes with visible injuries on their bodies.

Gambians have further witnessed evidence of torture when citizens were paraded on National Television by being forced to confess to crimes they allegedly committed. Prisoners in Mile II who have not shown any signs of severe illnesses have died mysteriously with their families alleging that they were tortured to death before their final demised. Other prisoners who served time at the country’s notorious Mile II prison have reported witnessing torture of other prisoners.

We can name several citizens who were allegedly tortured in detention at the NIA and at Mile II which eventually may have led to the death of some. Citizens such as Journalist Musa Saidykhan, Lamin Waa Juwara, the late Shyngle Nyass (RIP), former UDP strongman Wassa Janneh, Imam Bakawsu Fofana, Imam Bakaramo Touray of Brikama, former Accountant General Amadou Sanneh, Daily Observer editor Alagie Jobe just to mention few have all been tortured with physical evidence. Several hundred if not thousands of Gambians have reported suffering numerous physical tortures in the hands of the Jammeh administration.

It is to be clearly noted that physical and mental torture of citizens no matter the crime they allegedly committed is inhuman, illegal and is outlawed by both the Gambian constitution and international law. The Gambian constitution clearly stipulates that the torture of citizens no matter the crime they commit is illegal. The Universal declaration of Human Rights Article 5 also stipulates that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Gambian constitution further states that “No person shall be subject to torture or inhuman degrading from punishment or other treatment”. Thus it is abundantly clear that President Jammeh and agents acting on his behalf in torturing citizens have violated the rights of Gambian citizens and international convention on human and people’s rights on torture.

What is most disturbing about this continuous torture of Gambian citizens is not only the orchestration by Yahya Jammeh’s governing policies in instilling fear among citizens, but rather the citizens who are knowingly and willingly participating in these tortures. It is conclusive to every Gambian that Yahya Jammeh must be held accountable to his policies and crimes against citizens no matter how long it takes. But how about our very own citizens who we know actively participated and continue to participate in torturing our citizens and yet they come and seek refuse in the International community? The deliberate aiding and abiding of Yahya Jammeh in committing crimes against our citizens must be brought to a halt. Not a single citizen President or what have you can impose his or her will on a country without the willing participation of citizens. The time to institute new strategies in combating against citizen oppression is long overdue.

It is crystal clear that Gambians serving Jammeh do not willingly desert his cruel administration while they have every opportunity to do so. Instead; they enjoy every privilege; help suppress dissent and political participation of our citizens, promote his undemocratic agenda, commit crimes of torture, arrest, intimidation among others and even carry extrajudicial killings on his behalf until things turn sour against them before they flee for their lives. Gambians must begin to distinguish between serving your government and carrying illegal orders for a rogue regime. These citizens who allegedly participate in such tortures must be documented and shared with international institutions and governments where they are must likely to turn to for assistance. International Humanitarian bodies such as Amnesty International, the U.S, UK and other EU governments must equally be sensitized and supplied names of Gambian citizens who actively participate in illegal torture of citizens which they are very much aware is illegal and unacceptable. In considering the asylum cases of such citizens, these illegal acts must be put into consideration. A crime is a crime and every citizen must be accountable for their own actions. It is not acceptable for any citizen to knowingly participate in carrying out illegal others only to turn around and claim victim. The law domestic or international is there for all citizens of the world to learn and understand. Ignorance of the law is not can excuse much less knowingly violate the law.

It is a known fact that citizens of other nations such as the United States, UK and other civilize nations who serve their governments are held to the same laws and regulations such as bribery, corruption and other illegal crimes. For example, the United States service men and women are held to account for any allegations of torture, murder, rape and corruption no matter where they are committed, and those who commit such crimes are prosecuted for such crimes. Similar standards should be instituted for Gambian citizens who commit crimes in Gambia only to seek refuge abroad after falling apart with the government. When such stringent measures are taken up by Gambian citizen activists to sensitize the rest of the world of the cruelty these citizens participate in, we believe that it will serve as a form of deterrent in preventing more citizens from carrying out tortures knowing fully well that they will be held to account for their own actions. Many Gambians who allegedly participated in torturing our citizens are today enjoying their liberty without remorse. Others are actively torturing citizens hoping to get sanctuary when they fall apart with the Jammeh regime. The buck stops with every citizen, therefore the accountability should be extended to anyone who knowingly participated in carrying out such illegal orders.


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