Wednesday, December 6, 2023

AT THE COURT MARTIAL: Witnesses Testify On Accounts Of Cautionary Statements


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By Yankuba Jallow/Nelson Manneh

Lance Corporal Omar Jammeh (PW7) and Sergeant Momodou Gibba (PW8), have testified before the general Court-Martial on how they obtained cautionary statements from some of the accused persons.

They appeared before the panelists of the general Court-Martial on Tuesday 30th January 2018, to give account of how they obtained the Cautionary statements of some of the accused persons.

The accused persons are Captain Yahya Jammeh, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucarr Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Corporal Sulayman Sanyang, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Ebrima Jallow, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Private Alieu Sanneh.

The 12 soldiers are currently facing prosecution on 9 counts of committing a civil offence punishable under section 83 of the Gambia Armed Forces Act (GAF Act), that is to say Treason Contrary to Section 35 (1) (d), incitement to mutiny contrary to section 47 (a) of the GAF Act, failure to report mutiny contrary to section 47 (e) of GAF Act, conspiracy to commit mutiny contrary to section 7 (b) of the GAF Act, Endeavour to persuade members of the Armed Forces to take part in mutiny contrary to section 47 (c) of the GAF Act, Negligent or wilful interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 (c) of the GAF Act, Connivance of desertion contrary to section 54 (a) of the GAF Act, Connivance of desertion contrary to Section 54 (a) of the GAF Act and Negligent interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 of the GAF Act.

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Lance Corporal Omar, a resident of Tallinding who is attached to Fajara Military Barracks, said he knows Sulayman Sanyang and Abba Badjie; that he was ordered by his superior to take the cautionary statement of Sulayman Sanyang.

On how he recorded the statement, the witness said at the Fajara Military Police Charge Office, he introduced himself to the accused person and told him that he was the one assigned to record his cautionary statement; that he read the cautionary wordings to the witness and told him that anything he said will be used against him in court; that he recorded the cautionary wordings of the accused person, read it to him and the witness agreed, signed and thumb printed the statement. He said he urged the accused person to write his own cautionary statement but instead the accused person asked him to write it on his behalf. 

At this juncture, the state prosecutor Mohammed Abubakar applied for the witness to have a look at the cautionary statements. The witness identified the documents as his and confirmed that the handwriting and signature was his.

During cross-examination, defense lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe objected to the admissibility of the two cautionary statements of the sixth and tenth accused persons on the grounds that the document does not conform to the judges’ rule of obtaining cautionary statements; that the statements were recorded in the absence of an independent witness. He urged the court to disallow the admissibility of the documents in the interest of justice and fair play.

Counsel MB Abubakar in his counter objection said the objection of defence Lawyer Jobe lacks merit and is misconceived; that the particular section cited by Lawyer Jobe in the Evidence Act does not have effect on the document; that the section talks about confession and not cautionary statement. The court overruled the objection made by Lawyer Jobe and admitted the two cautionary statements as exhibits.

The Witness said at the time of recording the cautionary statements, there was no independent witness; that he approached someone to be an independent witness but that person declined; that it was his duty to find an independent witness and was not part of the board of investigators.

Sergeant Momodou Gibba, the eight prosecution witness said he is a soldier posted at the Fajara Barracks and is familiar with the accused persons; that as a military personnel, one of their responsibility is investigation and obtaining statements.

In his testimony he said sometime in July last year, he obtained the statements of Lance Corporal Ebrima Jallow in relation to the escape of a detainee, Sergeant Yusupha Jatta. He told the court that he invited the accused person in a room and introduced himself to him.

“I told him that there is no need to fear and was there to obtain his cautionary statement,” he told the court.

The witness said he asked the accused about the escape of Sergeant Yusupha Jatta; that it was then that the witness begun narrating and he recorded his cautionary statement.

“I cautioned the accused person (Lance Couple Jallow) and I read it to him and he said he understood it and as well signed and thumb printed it,” the witness said.

After that, the witness said Lance Corporal Jallow told him that he wanted to write another statement. ‘‘I recorded that statement whilst he signed and thumb printed it,’’ he said.

The witness was shown the cautionary statements which he identified as his and added that the signature and the handwriting were also his. Prosecutor Abubakar tendered the document in Court for it to be admitted but there was no objection from Lawyer SK Jobe. The Court-Martial admitted the two cautionary statements made by Lance Corporal Ebrima Jallow, dated the 14th day of July 2017, as exhibits M1 and M2.

The case was adjourned to Friday, 2nd of February 2018, for continuation of hearing of PW9 and others.

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