By Mustapha Jallow
In its report earlier submitted to President Adama Barrow, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has held the once most feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and a military assassin group known as the ‘Junglers’ responsible for the greatest of gross human rights violations and abuses in The Gambia.
The Commission said the NIA spy agency was in entity and together with the hit squad ‘Junglers’ carried-out tortures, inhumane and degrading treatments, arbitrary arrests, detention without trials, enforced disappearances of persons, sexual tortures and unlawful killings of citizens that helped ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh to grip on power for decades.
“Yahya Jammeh and his cluster of confederates at the NIA and among the Junglers committed all these acts during twenty two years with undisguised wickedness against the citizens of The Gambia with impunity and total disregard for the rule of law. Testimonies from the victims during the NIA public hearings, albeit different, were not a series of unrelated cases. They showed a consistent pattern of gross violations and abuses of human rights by the agents of the State. It was also clear from witness accounts that the actions of these agents weren’t the product of individual decisions on their part but rather a calculated and intentional policy of Yahya Jammeh to consolidate and perpetuate his reign of terror and fear in The Gambia,’’ said the truth commission report, which is now made public.
It stated that witness perpetrators who testified before the commission said that they themselves (the perpetrators) would be killed if they did not carry out superior orders to torture detainees to unlawfully obtain confessions, saying the torture meted out reached its crescendo when the detainee was accused especially of being part of a coup plot to overthrow Yahya Jammeh.
“It is the old story of feeding the crocodile with innocent people hoping that the storm of dictatorship would pass before their turn comes to be devoured by the reptilian beast,’’ said the Commission.
Jammeh’s government was precarious and became paranoid about counter coups since he took the thrown from ex President Jawara through a coup. Many of those senior military officers who also attempted to overthrow him were seriously beaten and eliminated.
The report indicated that since it was renamed as NIA, the spy agency becomes an instrument of oppression. Gradually, the agency’s investigations focused mainly on matters of interests and benefits to Jammeh’s regime and the agency was his personal torture chamber to silent political leaders, supporters, senior government official, members of the security forces and ordinary citizens.
When Jammeh came to power, torture and killing becomes his policy. Hundreds of detainees were brought in the NIA but only few would came out alive, while others were picked by the hit team for executions.
TRRC shows that the NIA spy agency would sometimes execute Jammeh’s plans and objectives by fabricating evidence against perceived enemies and extracting false confessions from detainees or political prisoners to secure convictions in politically motivated and malicious prosecutions that became so prevalent under Jammeh.
There were widespread of great terror and suspicions – even members of military and other security forces, government officials, intellectuals and civilians were at risk of being arrested or executed by Jammeh’s spy agency and hit squad. The commission shows that prominent officials, senior military officers and intellectuals were all tortured that leads them to confess to crimes they never committed.
The spy agency did not just do investigations but they got their hands dirty, anyone who dare questioned, opposed or suspected of dissenting opinion of Jammeh’s rule is eliminated.
The TRRC further indicated that the NIA spy agency played an active part in the disappearance of journalists, members of the security forces, ordinary citizens and government officials.
“This was in furtherance of its agenda to spread terror and instill the feeling of fear of making a dissenting opinion about the government,’’ said the commission.
Yankuba Badjie, was then chief of the NIA, he was described as the most ruthless senior intelligence boss in Gambia’s history, who uses the agency as a torture chamber only to satisfy his boss, dictator Jammeh.
The Commission said Jammeh knew quite well that suspected detainees were being tortured at NIA. In fact, the report added he (Jammeh) will send his assassin team to the NIA purposely to torture the suspects.
“They (NIA/Junglers) gave him regular reports and sometimes live updates during the sessions. In several instances, Yahya Jammeh himself will call and give instructions regarding the tortures. For instance, when FB17 (TRRC witness) was taken to the Junglers from the panel, after when Jammeh called the Junglers,’’ said the report.
The commission added: “FB17 recognized Jammeh’s voice and she overheard him (Jammeh) telling the Junglers to give her the ‘FULL VIP TREATMENT’ immediately after that the Junglers raped her (victim).
Eight former Junglers (members of the assassin team) confessed before the commission for their involvement in murdering more than eighty (80) Gambians on the orders of Yahya Jammeh. They also admitted torturing detainees at the intelligence agency and Mile II prisons.
The architect of the Junglers- a hit-squad, Jammeh created the death squad killed, raped and tortured his opponents such as those who want to take his throne such as WO1 Alpha Bah, former NIA Director General Daba Marena, Second Lt. Ebou Lowe, Second Lt. Alagie Ceesay and Sgt. Manlafi were all executed.
Jammeh also used state resources to pay his assassins for any hit they carried out during his 22 years of terror. The further found the NIA and Junglers tortures, forcibly disappearance a journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh and hundreds of citizens, including two US citizens and the report shows that the individuals were tortured and murdered.
The NIA spy agency situated in the country’s city of Banjul, was described as cruelest and most brutal agency in the Gambia and international community views it as the torture-chamber, where hundreds of people, political prisoners, suspected prisoners and detainees were brought in and they were administered with different amount of electrical shock, beatings and other forms of sexual tortures.
However, some of the witnesses who testified before the Commission, described torture methods used at NIA – this includes, severe beatings, suffocation with plastic bags, rape, electric shocks of body parts (genitals), stripping naked to play with private parts and dripping melted plastic bags onto the body.