United Nations’ Special Rapporteur, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, finds torture the almighty ruler of the Gambia. The UN Rapporteur made these diabolical findings, despite the Gambian Dictatorships’ best efforts to deny him unrestricted access to the country’s hell-hole prisons and myriads detention centres.
The Special Rapporteur explained that due ” to the Government’s denial of access to the Security Wing of Mile 2 Central Prison, this cannot be viewed as a “fullfledged” visit since an integral element of the mandate, being allowed unrestricted and unsupervised access to visit all areas of detention facilities for the purpose of interviewing detainees in private and to examine their conditions of detention, was denied.”
However, despite the Government’s best efforts to deny the Special Rapporteur unrestricted access to conduct his investigation in the country, the Special Rapporteur finds, during his 4 days visit to the country from the 3rd to the 7th November 2014, that torture was as popular in use in the country as its Dictator Yahya James Jammeh. The Special Rapporteur explained:
“Prevalence of torture
- In cases where there is a real or perceived threat to national security there is corresponding increase by the NIA of acts of torture and ill-treatment during the detention and arrest process. There was also anecdotal evidence of mistreatment by the police and other law enforcement which is more of an isolated, sporadic practice.
- The Special Rapporteur received many testimonies from people who did not want to be identified out of fear for either their own safety or their families. He conducted thorough interviews and forensic medical examinations by an independent forensic expert. He found the testimonies truthful and consistent with other testimonies regarding the practices and methods used and substantiated this with physical evidence presented by a number of cases which were consistent with their testimonies of beatings by fists or blunt instruments and the injuries showed treatment that amounts to torture (or is consistent with allegations of torture).
- The nature of the torture is brutal and includes very severe beatings with hard objects or electrical wires; electrocution (including to the genital area), asphyxiation by placing a plastic bag over the head and filling it with water, cigarette burns, tying up with ropes, burning with hot liquid and an account by one victim of having to dig his own grave believing he would be buried alive. These methods of torture generally occurred over a period of days or even weeks, usually either at NIA headquarters or in other unofficial places of detention.”
The Special Rapporteur further finds that despite the significant prevalence of torture, the torturers claim to have received as few as one reported case of torture in the country… He explained that: “The Special Rapporteur inquired into any investigations undertaken by courts or internal affairs units of law enforcement or security forces regarding allegations of torture or ill-treatment and into their results. Only once case has been reported to The Human Rights Unit, and it concluded that the injuries suffered by the complainant were caused by the fact that he resisted arrest. Few if any investigations are ever conducted and officials if ever prosecuted.”
As a result of his diabolical findings, the Special Rapporteur concluded that:
“97. After decades of repression, intimidation and fear, human rights activism is a weak concept in The Gambia and there are no robust institutions or effective legal mechanisms to counter the broad powers of law enforcement, intelligence and security forces which operate without any legal oversight and engage in practices that violate human rights with impunity.
- The practice of torture is prevalent and routine, in particular by the NIA during the initial stages of detention. The Government has not fulfilled its obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish every incident of torture and ill-treatment or its obligation to prevent such occurrences.
- Avoiding arrest is a necessary preoccupation for Gambian citizens since the lack of an effective criminal justice system is at the core of many human rights violations. There is no comprehensive and well-resourced legal aid programme; cases rely on “voluntary” statements which are actually coerced; pretrial detention is prolonged owing to inadequate police investigations and the denial of bail; sentencing policies result in excessively lengthy custodial sentences; alternative measures are not implemented; and the judiciary lacks the independence to uphold procedural safeguards that are required by international law.
- The lack of accountability is also the result of the absence of even a very basic level of forensic services, which means that medical examinations, if carried out at all, are not conducted by independent forensic specialists but by poorly trained medical personnel.
- International human rights standards are not met in the prison system and results in a number of serious violations: overcrowding, inadequate nutrition, insufficient access to medical care, poor sanitation, personal insecurity and an absence of rehabilitation services. These substandard conditions constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.
- The Special Rapporteur tried to verify the facts in a number of forced cases of disappearance. Not knowing the fate of a loved one amounts to cruel and inhuman treatment of the relatives.
- Intimidation and coercion, as described in article 1 of the Convention against Torture, including serious and credible threats, as well as death threats, to the physical integrity of the victim or a third person amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture.
- Female Genital Mutilation constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Kibaaro’s Managing Director, Bamba Mass, reacting to the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur, expressed satisfaction with the Special Rapporteur’s report. He explained that it would have come a huge surprise, had the Special Rapporteur made contrary findings to what was a common knowledge in the Gambia that the Gambian Dictator feeds on torture to maintain his reign. He explained that Yahya Jammeh’s brutality against the Gambian people is well documented and it is relieving to note that the United Nations Special Rapporteur has now confirmed the same for the world to know about the Gambian Dictator. He stated that Yahya Jammeh will go down in the Gambian history, as it’s Adolf Hitler. The worst son of the country, whose name will forever invoke condemnation and contempt from Gambians.
Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur has made some recommendations for the Gambian Dictator on how to salvage his evilness against people. The Special Rapporteur stated the following recommendations for the Gambian Dictator:
“108. With regard to safeguards and prevention, the Government should:
(a) Ensure prompt registration of all persons deprived of their liberty and periodically inspect custody records at police and prison facilities to make sure that they are maintained in accordance with the procedures established by law;
(b) Guarantee the right to a lawyer in all circumstances and without exception, and ensure that persons have access to a lawyer from the moment of deprivation of liberty and are brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of apprehension;
(c) Ensure that all detained persons are guaranteed the possibility of challenging effectively and expeditiously the lawfulness of their detention by having the National Agency for Legal Aid lawyers (NALA) and the judiciary visit places of detention to locate detainees who are entitled to habeas corpus relief or bail, especially those held in prolonged pre-trial detention;
(d) Financially invest in NALA so it has a robust mandate to operate independently and ensure a sufficient number of qualified lawyers can provide essential services to persons charged with any offence from the moment of apprehension through all stages of criminal proceedings: investigation, detention, interrogation, arrest and conditions of incarceration to ensure compliance with the rule of law and demand improvements as necessary;
(e) Video-record all statements made to law enforcement during the investigation and interrogation period as standard procedure. Such measures should be seen only as complementary to legal representation during all stages of the interrogation process;
(f) Ensure the right to an independent medical examination;
(g) Ensure any allegations of torture and ill-treatment are admitted at any stage of the trial and that courts are obliged to launch ex officio investigations whenever there are reasonable grounds to suspect torture or ill-treatment;
(h) Seek technical assistance to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and improve training of judges so they can have a more effective role in safeguarding the detainee’s rights at all stages of the proceedings, including being informed of detainee transfers to another detention facility and post-sentencing matters such as the conditions imposed after sentence, in particular in cases involving lengthy sentences of life imprisonment or the death penalty.”
It remains to be seen whether the decayed head of the Gambia’s Dictator Yahya Jammeh will adhere to any of the above recommendations of the Special Rapporteur..