The Gambia’s State Intelligence has returned to using a wide array of enhanced interrogations methods to extort information out of detainees, according to a senior security official.
The SIS, which was formerly the National Intelligence Agency has subjected a Gambian soldier to torture at its head office in the Gambia’s capital, Banjul.
Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang was arrested by the Gambia’s military police on July 12 and detained at the Fajara Barracks on charges of mutiny.
Bojang is allegedly part of a WhatsApp group of Gambian soldiers loyal to ex-leader, Yahya Jammeh plotting to destabilize the country.
He has denied being part of the group mutineers, some of whom have escaped and gone into hiding, including the group’s leader.
Bojang was taken to the SIS for interrogation. Lt. Yusupha Jallow called him out of his cell, put him in shackles and escorted him under heavy security to the feared intelligence agency office.
LCpl Bojang was stripped naked, his hands and legs cuffed and a handful of SIS agents pulled him into a torture room, tied him to a chair and stretched his legs. The chair will be pulled back, partially turning him upside down, leaning his head towards the floor and his legs towards the ceiling.
He was not beaten, the interrogators, about 10 of them used a cigarette lighter to burn underneath his feet during the session, which lasted four hours.
“This is to conceal any visible marks of torture on his body and the chains were so tight after the whole thing it left marks on his hand and he had bruises,” the official said.
“A chainsaw was used to take off the chains on Bojang’s hands, wounding him in the process. So, they do not want to take him to the main hospital.”
The Director General of the State Intelligence Agency, Ousman Sowe oversaw the interrogation of Bojang, who was repeatedly begging for them to stop.
Blood rushed to LCpl Bojang Bojang’s head and that with the pain, he had to be admitted to the military clinic in Fajara, where he is receiving treatment.
His hospital bed is surrounded by at least four heavily armed soldiers, who are watching him throughout his stay in the small medical facility just a few meters from where his cell block is located.
Bojang’s torture matches some of the most disturbing findings of torture methods used by NIA agents under ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh.
The NIA agents, mostly members of a militia group, Green Boys that backed Jammeh are accused of hanging people upside down and dropping melting plastic bags on victims.
The same agents, implicated in human rights abuses under Jammeh’s National Intelligence Agency continue to serve in President Adama Barrow’s SIS.
Agents of the State Intelligence Services threatened to kill the agency’s former legal advisor, Babucarr Badjie while attempting to arrest him, claiming they are doing so in the service of the nation.
A group of Gambian lawyers has joined rights defenders in calling for the total abandonment of the agency that was the most feared in the former regime and attempting to remain so.
“We do not see what effect a change of name of the NIA has if the same operatives who had no consideration of the principles of rule of law are the same operatives working for the so called SIS,” said Yassin Senghore.
Both Badjie and Senghore say it is naive to believe that a change of name of one of the most feared institutions under the Jammeh regime will cause a change in the perception of the general public of that institution.
A majority of the SIS agents are reportedly illiterate and were recruited in a manner that fits nepotism, according to a report presented to President Barrow but leaked to the press.
Although the SIS has been stripped of its arresting powers, its Director General, Ousman Sowe ordered the arrest of the report’s author, Babucarr Badjie, who was detained for days at the police.