Saturday, May 8, 2021

Baba Saho, the man accused of gross human rights violations, says he does not know what to regret

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Baba Saho, who has been accused of torturing several people while he was at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) said on Wednesday, he does not know what to regret….

He made the statement in response to a question posed to him by Commissioner Mustapha Kah.

 The former NIA Operative has been adversely mentioned before the Truth Commission (TRRC) as a person who tortured victims at the NIA.

He was said to have been involved in the unlawful arrest, detention and torture of supporters of People Progressive Party (PPP) in 1995, torture of Mballow Kanteh, Omar Joof Dampha and co, torture of Ebrima Barrow and others.

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Born on 4th April in 1961 in Foni Bondali, he attended Bondali Primary and Muslim High School respectively. Saho briefly worked with the Ministry of Finance and then went to the Gambia College before joining the Gambia Police Force. 

In 1992, he was transferred to the National Security Services (NSS) which in 1995 was renamed the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) where he served from 1995- to 2005. According to him, while he was at the NSS, he worked under the Analysis Unit. 

“Have you ever done a course on Investigations and Analysis?” asked Lead counsel. “No,” Saho responded.

“Do you agree with me that there is some form of collaboration between the Analysis and the Consumer Unit?” asked Faal.

The witness responded that there are differences between the Analysis Unit of the NIA and other units, but admitted that there is collaboration between the two. He said if information is sent to the Analysis Unit, it was their duty to indicate what is missing and reviewed, adding that the final report from the Analysis Unit is strictly for the Director General of the NIA. 

The witness confirmed to the Commission that he later worked at the Investigations Unit with Foday Barry, Lamin Baba-Dinding Jobarteh and others. 

Witness Saho said they have a very close professional relationship. 

Mr Saho left for the United Kingdom in 1996 and came back in 1998. He went back to the NIA where he was appointed as the Deputy Director of Internal Security. 

“Would you accept that your promotion was very rapid?” said counsel Faal. “I don’t see it that way,” the witness replied. 

At this juncture, Faal told the witness that in six years he was with the NIA, he was accorded the Deputy Director position. Faal told him that there should be a system of promotions in the civil service, but his promotion was fast.

Faal told the witness that it was the responsibility of the witness to bring out the facts to the Truth Commission. 

Lead Counsel Faal further told him that the Commission had seen that even people with Secondary 4 certificates, had been Commanders at the NIA.

In 2002, the witness served as Deputy Director of External Security. In 2003, he was appointed as the Director of External Security. In 2005, he said he was sacked without any reason advanced to him. 

Mr. Saho disclosed that in 2002, Mr. Foday Barry was the Director of Internal Security, but both of them were sacked at the same time and brought back to the NIA at the same time for the same purpose which was to extract confessions from alleged coup plotters. 

With regard to the unlawful arrest, detention and torture of PPP supporters in 1995, the witness said he was aware of the incident but he did not participate in the investigation. He said the function of the investigation unit was to make follow-ups about things that were not clear to the Agency and the Director General was the one who used to give them instructions.

Mr. Saho said if the NIA officers arrest people in those days, they used to take them to the NIA headquarters. However, he said interrogations of such individuals (party supporters) were done by the unit that did the arrest because they know the reason why they arrested them. Saho said he did not know anything regarding the PPP protesters who were arrested by NIA officers. He said he knew that there was a protest and people were arrested, but he did not participate in anything.

The witness denied having knowledge of the arrest and torture of the PPP protesters. He said when the PPP supporters were arrested; they were not taken to the investigation unit. He also said he never saw Batch Samba Jallow and he did not participate in his torture meted out to him. 

Saho said at the NIA, he was closer to Foday Barry to an extent that other officers used to refer to him and Barry as Peter and Paul. He denied allegation that he jointly participated with Barry in some of the operations at the NIA.

Batch Samba Jallow, a teacher, alleged that Baba Saho took a stone and hit him on his private part. The witness denied this allegation, adding that such an act is inhumane and he never did such to Jallow. He said he was famous at the NIA because of his honesty.

According to TRRC witnesses’ testimonies, Baba Saho participated in the torture of nine people including Batch Samba Jallow, Ebrima Barrow and others.

Lead Counsel Faal put it to the witness that stripping people off their clothes was the order of the day at the NIA, adding this was done so that the arrested suspects do not run. Witness Saho responded in the negative, adding that he never participated on such activities.

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