Military officers granted bail

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The Gambia’s High Court on Wednesday granted bail to four military officers of the Gambia Armed Forces who were kept incommunicado for two years without charge at the Mile II Central Prisons.

Major Wally Nyang, Warrant Officer 2 Bai Lowe, Staff Sergeant Abdoulie Jallow and Lance Corporal Sang Mendy were granted bail in absentia as the prison authorities failed to bring them to court, a trend responsible for denial of justice in the country.

New from the grapevine said the prison officers were ordered to bar the detained officers from showing in court with their mutilated bodies principally to save the government embarrassment. The government’s failure to explain why they were not in court sent people concluding they were severely tortured.

Judges in the Gambia are afraid to challenge the authorities, even in the worst breaches of court’s powers, and any judge who dares challenges could face a sack or ends up joining the prisoners in Mile 2. As a result; most Gambian born judges are scared to play by the book but instead succumb to the fear and pressure of the authorities.

According to family sources; Major Wally Nyang is said to have been arrested and detained on 3 March 2010; whilst his co detainees namely: Staff Sergeant Abdoulie Jallow from Giboro Kuta village in the West Coast Region; Lance Corporal Sang Mendy of Tumani Tenda village also in the same region; and WO2 Bai Lowe from Fass Njaga Choi of the North Bank Region; were arrested on 8 July 2010, at their guard post in Kanilai, President Yahya Jammeh’s home village. Since their arrest and subsequent detention at Mile Two Prison, their families have been denied all access to see them and they still do not know the crimes their love ones have been charged with.

It could be recalled that the former Army Spokesperson, Lieutenant Omar Bojang, was reported by the local media of stating that the authorities had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the said detainees. His reasoning for that lack of knowledge was that the said detainees were not serving members of The Gambian Armed Forces. He however failed to confirm or deny that the said detainees were arrested whilst in on duty for the Gambia Arm forces and the army owes them a duty of care to be aware of their whereabouts whilst on duty. Therefore they failed in that duty by not investigating the whereabouts of these soldiers and updating their families of the same.

The story of the said detainees bores similarities to many arrests and incommunicado detentions of many Gambian, who credible witness attested to their arrests by the Gambian authorities only for the said authorities to deny knowledge of the whereabouts after their presume death. The vivid case in mind is that of Kanyiba Kanyi, an employee of Christian Children Funds and Chief Ebrihima Manneh reporter with the Daily Observer and many other detained person such as Daba Marena and co. It can only be described as murder in the broad day light!

We however hope that the aforementioned detainees will be lucky enough with this court ruling on their application for bail to regain their liberty. We hope that the authorities will respect the court ruling and allow these men to leave the confines of the prison walls and join their families until the outcome of their cases. Justice Edrisa Fafa Mbai of the Banjul High Court, indicated that the lawyer for the applicants, Neneh Cham, has filed a ten paragraph affidavit on behalf of her clients. Relying on the Gambian constitution and other national laws, the High Court judge, upheld the application sought by the applicants.

The court granted bail to each applicant on condition that they each produce a surety that should sign a bail bond of D250, 000 and that the surety should have a property either in the Greater Banjul Area or within the West Coast Region. Going further, the judge ruled that applicants should surrender their traveling documents with the registrar of the Banjul High Court and that they should not leave the country. He further added that they should report to the nearest police station once a week and that should the state fail to press charges against the detainees after three months, they should be released unconditionally.

We urge that the due process be respected and allowed to take its cause without hindrance as expected in any civilized humans society and not in jungle States with jungle laws.