By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairperson, Emmanuel Daniel Joof says his institution and the Gambia Bar Association (GBA) will not join the Police to investigate torture allegations that Anti-Crime Unit (ACU) Commissioner Gorgi Mboob hit one Erbima Sanneh in his genitals with a hoe. In an exclusive interview with Kerr Fatou, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mamour Jobe revealed that he had placed Commissioner Mboob on administrative leave and he had launched an investigation panel consisting of members from the Police, State Intelligence Services (SIS), Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), NHRC and the GBA.
In an interview dated Monday 27th July 2020, IGP Jobe highlighted that “I would say you’ve got a member from the Gambia Police Force. You got a member from the SIS these are senior seasoned personalities. You’ve got a senior officer from the GAF. You’ve got one from the GBA. You’ve got one from the NHRC. So, [this is]to make it look very dynamic, very reliable. This is a team that is not composed of Police Officers alone and I am sure that by the end of the day the right team will be identified and the appropriate actions will be taken.”
No All-Star Investigative Panel Assembled
However, this all-star “dynamic and reliable” team may not be assembled after the NHRC Chairperson revealed that his institution sent a letter to the IGP on Tuesday 28th July 2020 with a list of demands which must be met before the NHRC and the GBA could join the investigative panel.
Speaking to Chairperson Joof he argued that the NHRC joining the Police in this investigative panel could jeopardize their independence, especially considering the fact that their institution should be seen as independent when investigating alleged human rights violations of civilians at the hands of Security Officers.
It can be recalled that the NHRC released a presser on Sunday 26th August 2020 condemning Police Brutality and informing the public that they’re “investigating the said allegations [Ebrima Sanneh hit in the genitals by ACU Commissioner Mboob] and will recommend the appropriate action to take to make sure that justice is done if it is established that any form of torture was committed.”
For now, the Police will have to investigate Ebrima’s torture allegations with the SIS and the GAF.
Can the Police Investigate Themselves?
The fact that Police have promised an investigation which now appears to be exclusively composed of Security Officers raises the question if the Police can investigate themselves. Firstly, any investigation conducted by the Police will be prejudiced by the statement issued by Poliso Magazine denying torture allegations before a conclusive investigation. According to the statement “the Office of the Inspector General of Police has noticed with great concern a story circulating on social media with the caption “Gorgi Mboob accused of attacking Ebrima Sanneh in his genitals“. This story is not only false but calculated to mislead the public.”
The Police statement details that a “medical examination was conducted on him [Ebrima Sanneh] and he was said to be without any complications as indicated in an ultrasound scan report.”
In response to the Poliso presser, Ebrima issued a statement the following day refuting the Police’s claims that he was not tortured and requested for the Police to withdraw their statement, however, this is still yet to be done. This issue was further compounded when the IGP doubled down on his statement during the aforementioned interview with Kerr Fatou.
According to the IGP “from the look of that report, when you look at it all the areas that were allegedly said were affected were explained by the Dr to be intact and normal.” This prompted Fatou Touray to correct the IGP that the medical report indicates that there was swelling in the scrotum which substantiates Ebrima’s complaint that he was hit with a hoe in his private parts. The scrotum is the region where the testicles are found.
To this IGP Jobe insisted that “I wish I could have exposed it [medical report]and show it out to the general public but the fact that that is a private document.” This fact appears to have been lost on Commissioner Mboob who paraded Ebrima’s medical report on the National People’s Party Online TV interview published on Facebook.
Speaking to Ebrima on Thursday 30th July 2020 he explained that the Police insisted on paying his medical bills for his scan, which allowed them to take possession of his medical report. According to Ebrima, he was not given his medical report which he says was sealed with a staple. To prove this Ebrima showed me the staple marks at the top of his medical report. According to Ebrima the Officer who shadowed him at the hospital opened the sealed document and phoned his superior, informing them of his medical report without his consent.
Sensing that he wouldn’t be able to take possession of his medical report Ebrima took a photo of it which he showed me. The photo of the medical report was identical to the medical report Commissioner Mboob showed me at the ACU camp on Saturday 25th July 2020. In summary, the first page showed that Ebrima’s abdomen and pelvis were ok, however, it highlights that Ebrima’s scrotum had experienced trauma. The second page also highlights that Ebrima’s testicles were swollen.
During my discussion with Ebrima, he confirmed that he had still not received his original medical report.
Previous Investigations on Police Brutality
Looking back at some recent Police Brutality investigations promised by the Police raises several questions on the capability of the Police to investigate themselves. The Faraba Commission of Enquiry was conducted after civilians were killed after a riot erupted at a mining site in Faraba. However, until now the public has not been informed about the implementation of the Faraba Commission recommendations. It must be noted that the Faraba Commission was also conducted under the leadership of the current NHRC Chairperson, Emmanuel Joof.
Serious questions are still yet to be answered including the status of officers responsible for killing civilians at Faraba. The public is still not aware if officers indicted in the commission report have been suspended and charged for the murder of at least two youth.
Another crucial investigation is on the death of Ousman Darboe, a Serrekunda Market vendor who allegedly died after a torture session at the ACU Camp in Bijilo. Ousman’s death sparked a huge protest which descended into a riot and an arson attack on Commissioner Mboob’s house. It’s understood that Commissioner Mboob’s house has been replaced, however, to date an investigation has not been conducted on Ousman’s death.
In the aftermath of the riots, the IGP stressed that a post mortem was conducted which shows that Ousman had died from an asthma attack. To date, Ousman’s widow, Binta Jabbie, has not been given a copy of the post mortem report, nor has she received a copy of the investigation on her husband’s death.
Late Ousman Darboe’s Widow Speaks
Thursday 23rd July 2020 marked one year since Ousman Darboe’s untimely death prompting me to visit Ousman’s widow, Binta Jabbie, who organised a charity commemorating his death. This is what she revealed to me.
Firstly, Binta confirmed that Ousman was an asthma patient but he never used an asthma pump and that he managed his illness without any medical treatment. She explained that her children also suffer the same condition and do not use an asthma pump.
At this point, it would be prudent to highlight that Security Officers have a duty of care and should dispatch their responsibility to ensure the safety of detainees under their care. This means Officers are also duty-bound to ensure that detainees with medical conditions are detained in an environment which doesn’t jeopardize their health and safety.
Binta also alleged that Ousman was detained at ACU’s Bijilo Camp for over 72 hours in his first time of detention, where he was initially tortured. After Ousman was eventually released and returned home Binta was adamant that she observed signs of torture on her husband’s body while massaging him and helping him alleviate the pain. She said Ousman was crying from the pain and he had to seek medical attention.
According to Binta a few days after his release Commissioner Mboob called Ousman in her presence demanding that Ousman reports to the ACU in Bijilo late at night. She pleaded with him not to leave but he reassured her that it would be ok and he went to Bijilo where he never returned home alive.
Some hours later Binta says she received a call informing her that Ousman was admitted at the hospital where he later died. Until today the IGP has not produced an investigation report to the family and the general public. The family have also not been given a copy of the post mortem report highlighting Ousman’s cause of death.
Police Should Provide Victims with Necessary Information
In conclusion, I’m compelled to highlight the deceptive practice that ACU and some Security Officers employ in an attempt to deny detainees and their families their medical report, investigation reports, post mortem reports and crucial information. Often these documents are imperative in proving a victims case.
The latest case of Ebrima Sanneh, currently being denied access to his original medical report is a prime example. IGP Jobe appears to be aware that personal documents should not be published without prior consent from the owner of the document. However, Commissioner Mboob appears oblivious to this. This highlights the urgent need for the Police to return Ebrima’s original medical report.
Finally, for the Police’s investigation to be taken seriously, even though they would be seen to be investigating themselves, the Police must retract their statement refuting Ebrima Sanneh’s torture allegations. Failure to do so would mean that the Police have prejudiced their investigation by taking a position on a matter before concluding an independent investigation.