The Director of Gambia’s most sadistic security agency roams freely in the Gambia and attending highly official functions while tens still remain missing in the West African nation.
Yankuba Badjie, the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was seen at the Banjul International Airport welcoming and shaking hands with the country’s new President Adama Barrow.
Badjie’s secret intelligence agency was only answerable to the former ruthless ruler of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, who has fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
The NIA is most frequently implicated in human rights violations. The agency rounded up and held incommunicado many Gambians, some for months and years.
Despite widespread allegations of serious abuses committed by the agency over the last two decades of Jammeh’s rule, none of its officers were held accountable for the tortures, rapes, killings and arbitrary detentions.
Opposition activists Solo Sandeng was tortured death last year under Yankuba Badjie’s watch and broadcast journalist Alhagie Abdoulie Ceesay was also tortured most recently.
Ceesay was “beaten until he fell unconscious and was forced to drink cooking oil like water on several occasions,” a person who saw him after his release from the NIA told Human Rights Watch. “We saw him, his face full of bruises and his back covered in marks and wounds. He could not walk properly because of the beatings.”
Alieu Sarr, who fled the Gambia in 2015 after being accused of acts of homosexuality said he was repeatedly tortured while in NIA detention.
“I was beaten with a club and fists,” he said. “They threatened me with death if I didn’t provide names of other homosexuals in Gambia.”
In the weeks before Jammeh’s departure from power, the NIA closed at least four radio stations, arrested supporters of the opposition and pro-democracy grassroots campaigners who were tortured until their release just this week.
Forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, and other human rights violations were trademarks of the government of Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup in 1994.
Swiss authorities arrested Jammeh’s former homeland security minister, Ousman Sonko, who worked in the same capacity as Director Badjie under the UN Torture Convention and Swiss Criminal Law.
The NIA routinely target voices of dissent, including journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents, and critics, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Two UN special rapporteurs, who in 2014 gained access to the country for the first time, concluded that “torture is a consistent practice” by authorities and “avoiding arrest is a necessary preoccupation” for ordinary Gambians.