The Gambian case
By Yaya Dampha
According to international law, prisoners or detainees are not to be subjected to any hardship or constraint other than that resulting from a deprivation of their liberty. However, in the Gambia torture or ill treatment in detention are routinely carried out in violation of not only the Gambian constitution, as in chapter IV article 21, but also the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7, the convention against torture Article 2(2) as well as the African Charter, Article 5.
No one may be subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. This right is of particular importance to people deprived of their liberty. The prohibition against torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading form of punishment includes acts which cause mental as well as physical suffering to a victim.
Under international law, all agents of the state are prohibited from inflicting, instigating or tolerating torture or degrading treatment on any person. The fact that they have been ordered to do so by their superiors may not be used as a justification; in fact they are bound by the international standard to disobey such orders and to report them.
However, in the Gambia, the National Intelligent Agency (NIA), police and the army, under the command of top most authorities, torture detainees. Torture in this country is used to obtain information or extract confessions that can be used as evidence in a court of law, regardless of the accuracy of such information. This has been proven during the treason trial of March 22 2006 alleged abortive coupists.
Alieu Lowe, a relative of leader of the alleged coup, after been detained for several months without charge, was approached by the country’s attorney general and offered a deal that warranted him to serve as a witness against other accused in exchange for his release. Alieu agreed to this, but during the trial, to the utter disappointment of the state representatives, he testified about his own ill-treatment and torture in custody and went on to say he witnessed others been tortured including the former National Assembly member for Nianija Constituency in the Central River Region of the Gambia, Demba Dem. Alieu’s evidence was expunged on the grounds that he was a ‘‘hostile’’ witness. He has since been in custody without any charge, with no access to him by his family.
And just recently, there have been reports of torture and degrading treatments meted on the former Chief of Defence Staff and four other senior Gambian military and police officers who were arrested last November on another unconfirmed report of coup attempt. Information reaching Jollof News indicates that these detainees are being tortured and denied access to their families and lawyers.
General Tamba, the former army chief, Omar Mbye, Malamin Jarju, and Kawsu Camara, AKA Bombardier, amongst a host of others, should be released forthwith or be brought to court as soon as possible. The Gambia government should further investigate the alleged torture meted on these men and bring the perpetrators to book. This is in the best interest of the detainees and their families, the Gambian government and, most importantly, the country as a nation.
Arrest, torture, illegal detention
The Gambian case