By Yankuba Jallow
Batch Samba Jallow, a former exile Gambian has on Monday the 28th January 2019 given a graphic account of how he was brutally tortured under the Jammeh regime in his testimony before the TRRC.
He said he was a headmaster and had taught for over 40 years, noting that when he was in Makumbaya, people did come to him to discuss politics. He added that one Captain Bojang urged him to join the APRC, adding that he turned down the Captain’s request for the simple reason that he won’t participate in a non-democratic government.
He said on the 12th October 1995, he was arrested by a group of security agents in his house at the Bakoteh Estate. He said these soldiers damaged his compound gate and house door and entered into his bedroom. He said this was around 4 am.
He adduced that these agents were Daba Marena, Musa Kinteh, Foday Barry, Baba Saho and Ebrima Barry.
“Daba Marena was the mastermind of the NIA at that time and he used to give orders (directives) to the officers,” the witness said.
He said he was tortured and asked him to drink his own urine at ‘Bambadinka’ Cell number 2 by Daba Marena and his co. He described ‘Bambadinka’ as very dark without any light but with a terrible smell and slippery because of the blood on the floor. He said when he was brought to the Cell 2, the late Abdoulie Bojang told him that he was going to be killed. The witness supposed that Bojang worked for Yahya Jammeh’s mother.
He said his arrest was in relation to an aborted PPP demonstration that was to be staged at the American Embassy, Banjul. He said those who came to arrest him told him that the purported demonstration was geared towards destabilizing the country.
He described several tortures meted on him by these people including the use of electric shocks on him. He said Ebrima Barry slapped him and Baba Saho hit him with a pistol until his lower teeth fell. He said Saho further held him and threw him into a van like a ‘nonliving thing’. He said he was transported to the NIA headquarters which was housed at the GPMB building. At this place, the witness said he was stripped naked by Daba Marena and his co. He added that his legs and hands were tied and Daba Marena and his men used an electric cable to beat him.
He said he was accused of plotting a coup with the American soldiers. He said he was subjected to electric shocks from the time he arrived till early morning at 7 am. He recounted that Baba Saho hit him with stone on his manhood. He said he lost his little finger during the torture and the torturers used plastic burns on his chest.
The witness undressed and show the Commission the parts of his body affected by the plastic burns. He said his body was cut by Daba and his group ‘from my waist to my feet.’ He added that he was dragged on a floor with broken bottles causing more injuries on him. He explained that he was tortured until he couldn’t speak.
“My mouth was shielded by a plastic making it impossible for me to shout or cry. Blood was coming from every part of my body,” he said.
He said he spent 11 hours at ‘Bambadinka’ Number 2.
“I spent about 5 to 6 days at the NIA without food,” he explained.
He said on the second day, they poured cold water on him to remove the blood on him.
He said on his third day at the NIA headquarters, he was helped by one Abdourahman Jallow with paracetamol tablets to ease his pain.
“Every morning at the NIA, they used to torture me by beating and kicking me,” he said.
He said he had not taken shower, no access to a lawyer and no access to a clinic all the days he spent at the NIA. He said he was then transferred to the Kotu Police Station in a vehicle loaded with garbage where he spent 3 to 4 nights in a cell before his transfer to the Fajara Barracks. He said on his second night at the Police Station, Daba and his men came for him but the officer on duty refused to hand him over to them. He said at the Fajara Barracks, he met OJ, Ousainou Njie, MC Cham, Ousainou Darboe and others. He said he was put in a store where he met over 70 detainees including three (3) women detained as well as non-Gambians too. He said the store was used as a garage to repair trucks but was converted into accommodating detainees. He said the store does not have a window and there was no ventilation.
“I spent 14 months in that store. The smell in the store was terrible because of the odour coming from us,” the witness testified.
He said they were getting food but on the initial days of their detention, there was no food provided. He said they spent the night on the concrete floor. He said food was provided by the Fajara Barracks and 18 people shared a bowl.
He said their condition became better when the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) visited them at the store and interviewed them individually. He said it was after this time that their families were allowed to visit them, they had sponges to lie on, access to hospital and take shower once every day.
He said whilst under detention, he was charged for sedition and the charged was later amended by Fatou Bensouda as treason. He said he had no access to a lawyer as opposed to what Bensouda told the media (The Daily Observer) that he had access to a lawyer.
“Bensouda’s statement was a fake. She was the deputy director of public prosecutions and she was the mastermind of everything that happened,” he said.
He confessed that he was aware of the planned demonstration but he was not part of the organisers and that he had no intention to participate in the process. He said he knew some of the organisers and he had close contact with them.
The court document containing the charges that were levied against him was tendered and forms part of the evidence. He said the charges were dropped for lack of sufficient evidence and he was released by the court. He said he was released on the same day as OJ, MC Cham and others were released. He said before his release, he was warned not to stand with more than 2 people in the street and he should not discuss politics with anyone.
The witness said his teaching service was terminated by the PMO on the 6th November 1995 and the copy of the letter was tendered and forms part of the evidence. He said he was not paid anything by the PMO as required.
After his release, the witness explained, he went into exile in Senegal where the US-government accepted him as an approved asylum seeker. He said in America, he was hospitalized for 3 months and cartilage was used to support his finger.