At least 17 people will be testifying against nine former secret service agents of the Gambia’s former president, Yahya Jammeh accused of killing an opposition activist and torturing a dozen others.
A former intelligence chief, Yankuba Badjie with his deputy and operations director are among those charged with the torture-death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, a senior member of the UDP party, who led a rare protest for electoral reform.
Jammeh accused Sandeng of attempting to violently overthrow his government with funding from foreign governments bent on ending his rule.
Jammeh was defeated by opposition contender, Adama Barrow in last year’s election. Sandeng’s death was seen as a major influence on the outcome of the shocking polls.
The autocratic ruler had refused to comply with UN calls for an independent investigation, choosing instead to throw jabs at its chief and rights groups.
Gambian authorities arrested Badjie, Deputy Director Louis Richard Gomez, Operations Director Saihou Omar Jeng, Babucarr Sallah, Yusupha Jammeh, Haruna Susso, Tamba Masireh, Lamin Darboe and Lamin Lang Sanyang in February, a month after Jammeh was forced to flee the country by regional forces.
Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency was dreaded and notorious for torture and mock executions. President Adama Barrow has already changed the NIA’s name to the State Intelligence Agency (SIA) and stripped it of its powers of arrest.
A former NIA operative, who spoke to Human Rights Watch on the condition of anonymity, said that “I’d seen bad things before, but suddenly I was seeing real torture. One woman was beaten so badly she wet herself in fear. I can still remember her screams.”
A National Assembly Member, Fatoumata Jawara will be among those that are expected to testify against Badjie and his colleagues.
At least two other opposition detainees died since their release from jail, one of them, reportedly after being poisoned by his torturers and the other, Ebrima Ceesay, the son of an MP.
The Gambia will set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses committed during ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s government.