By Patience Loum
German Federal Prosecutors have called for the German court to slam former “Jungler” Bai Lowe with a life sentence for his alleged involvement in murders and attempted murder during the 22-year dictatorial regime of former President Yahya Jammeh.
The hearing into Bai Lowe’s court case started in April 2022 and is expected to conclude in early December 2023. During the most recent hearing on 16th November 2023, German Federal Prosecutors issued the declaration for Bai Lowe’s life imprisonment at a Celle Court in Germany. The trial will follow up on the 24th of November 2023, during which the defence will make their closing arguments.
Babucarr Bai Lowe is a former Gambian Soldier who served as a driver for the “Junglers” from 2003 to 2006. The Junglers were a former killing squad which executed numerous opponents and perceived opponents of former President Jammeh. For the court case against Bai Lowe, he has been indicted for three counts of crimes against humanity for the murders of former Newspaper editor and journalist, Deyda Hydara, and Dawda Nyassi, and the attempted murder of lawyer, Ousman Sillah.
Deyda Hydara was a journalist, co-owner and editor of The Point Newspaper. Before his passing, Deyda Hydara was an Agence France –Presse (AFP) and Reporters Without Border (RSF) correspondent. He was killed on the night of 16th December 2004 on his way from work. The date of his death also marked The Point Newspaper’s 13th year anniversary and his widowed wife’s birthday.
Lawyer Ousman Sillah was one of the legal representatives of the late Baba Jobe, a former ally to former President Yahya Jammeh, who is also alleged to have been imprisoned and killed through executive orders. According to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) “Lawyer Ousman Sillah survived the attempt to assassinate him but with permanent damages to his body”.
The TRRC is a defunct commission which investigated the human rights violations which took place under the leadership of former President Yahya Jammeh and his accomplices. After completing their investigation and hearings, the TRRC submitted its 16-volume Report and Recommendations which have mostly been accepted by The Gambia Government.
Another one of Bai Lowe’s alleged victims is Dawda Nyassi who the TRRC says “was one of the Gambian fighters who participated in the Liberian war”. The Commission revealed that after Nyassi returned to the Gambia, “Jammeh suspected that he may have been working on plans to overthrow him. Jammeh ordered Junglers to kill him.”
The witnesses in the Bai Lowe Trial include the son of the late Deyda Hydara and a survivor of the Deyda Hydara assassination, who was also in the car at the time of the shooting.
According to Trial International, the Bai Lowe trial in Germany, in the city of Celle, is the first to prosecute human rights violations committed in Gambia during the Jammeh era on the basis of universal jurisdiction. Bai L. has been in pretrial detention since his arrest in Germany in March 2021.
TRRC Recommendations on Bai Lowe
According to the TRRC report, Bai Lowe was “sent to assassinate Lawyer Ousman Sillah [who] would later reveal to Freedom online newspaper how they were ordered by Yahya Jammeh to assassinate Lawyer Ousman Sillah. The Junglers attempted to carry out the plan, but they failed by divine intervention”.
The TRRC Report on the Junglers Recommended that Bai Lowe be prosecuted for his role in the killing of Deyda Hydara, the attempted murder of Lawyer Ousman Sillah and the “unlawful killing [of] about fifty (50) — West African Migrants and their Gambian Counterpart”.
In conclusion, the TRRC Report recommended the “prosecution of all the Junglers and other persons listed for their complicity in crimes referred to in this report subject to the grant of amnesty that the Amnesty Committee may recommend”.
In response, the executive published a White Paper noting that “the Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The government takes note of the report of the Amnesty Committee on the granting of immunity however immunity is not applicable to those who bear the greatest responsibility for the human rights violations during the period in question and for crimes against humanity”.
The Case of Bai Lowe under Universal Jurisdiction
Bai Lowe fled to Germany in the city of Hannover and was eventually arrested in March 2021. Under the principles of Universal Jurisdiction, states can prosecute alleged perpetrators of mass atrocities under international law.
His trial in Germany is made possible because the country’s laws recognize universal jurisdiction over certain serious crimes under international law, allowing for the investigation and prosecution of these crimes no matter where they were committed, and regardless of the nationality of the suspects or victims.
Universal jurisdiction cases are increasingly important in international efforts to hold those responsible for atrocities accountable, to provide justice to victims who have nowhere else to turn, to help deter future crimes, and to help ensure that countries do not become safe havens for human rights abusers.
According to Trial International, this trial may be a step on the way to ensuring that Jammeh and others implicated in the crimes will face fair, credible trials in The Gambia or outside the country, as needed.
Meanwhile, in The Gambia, the National Assembly passed the Anti-Torture Bill and the Victim’s Reparations Bill this year. More importantly, the Special Prosecutor’s Office Bill and the Special Accountability Mechanism Bill are yet to be tabled in Parliament which will signal another important step in The Gambia Government’s efforts to progress the TRRC’s recommendations on prosecution.
Former Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko’s trial is also expected to follow suit, followed up by a year’s long investigation. His indictment came on 17th April 2023 and the first phase of his trial is expected to commence in January 2024, in Switzerland, for crimes of torture meted out during Jammeh’s regime.
Another Jungler is also expected to face trial in the United States by the name of Michael Correa. His case is expected to commence in September 2024. The TRRC findings indicate that former Jungler Correa was also involved in the death of Deyda Hydara, Daba Marenah, young Gambian Americans, Alhagie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe amongst others.
Meanwhile, the main mastermind who orchestrated all these alleged crimes against humanity, former President Yahya Jammeh, still remains in Equatorial Guinea, out of reach of the long arm of Justice. For now.