By Yankuba Jallow
Sergeant Bambo Sanneh, the Prosecution Witness has told the general Court-Martial how he recorded the Cautionary statements of Sergeant Baboucar Sanyang, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang, Sergeant Malick Bojang and Private Mbemba.
He made this statement yesterday before the panellist of the general Court-Martial presiding over the cases of 12 soldiers who are facing 9 charges including treason and mutiny.
Sergeant Sanneh told the Court-Martial that he is a military officer residing and working at the Yundum Military Barracks and attached to the Military Police Unit; that he is familiar with the accused persons referring to some of them as his colleagues whilst others as soldiers of the Gambia Armed Forces. He said he graduated in the year 1998 and joined the Gambia Armed Force on the 8th day of February 2000; that he was a qualified teacher before joining the Army. He said he joined the Military Police Unit in the year 2012.
In his evidence in chief, Sergeant Sanneh said sometime in July last year, he was part of an investigation board at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), where the accused persons appeared; that he recorded the cautionary statements of Sergeant Baboucar Sanyang, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Couple Lamin Gibba, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang and Private Mbemba Camara.
In his testimony on how he recorded the cautionary statements of each of the accused persons, the witness said he recorded the cautionary wording of each of the accused persons, read the cautionary statement to each of them and they understood; that each of the cautionary statements was thumb printed by the accused persons therein referred to. He said he recorded the Statements Sergeant Baboucar Sanyang, Sergeant Malick Bojang and Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang, in the absence of an independent witness; that for Corporal Lamin Gibba and Private Mbemba Camara, each of their cautionary statements were recorded in the presence of an independent witness; that after their cautionary statements were read to them, they were thumb printed by the accused persons; that he obliged each of them to write his own statement but was told by each of them to write on their behalf. He said each of them narrated to him and he recorded their statements on their behalf.
“After I completed writing their statements, each one of them thumb printed their own statement and I endorsed it,” the witness said.
He said the independent witness was Bernard Jatta, who was shown the cautionary statements to identify. The witness identified the cautionary statements adding that the handwriting was his. The state prosecutor, Mohammed B. Abubakar tendered all the cautionary statements for the court-martial to admit as exhibits.
Lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe for the defence, objected to prosecutor Abubakar’s application. He said the statements of Sergeant Baboucar Sanyang, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang and Sergeant Malick Bojang were obtained in the absence of an independent witness saying the law is very clear about that; that when recording cautionary statements from accused persons or suspects, it should be done in the presence of an independent witness and further relied on Section 31 (2) of the Evidence Act 1994. For the cautionary statement of Mbemba Camara, Lawyer Jobe said he is objecting based on the fact that the witness was not the recorder of the statement; that according to the rule of evidence, for a document to be admitted in court, the maker of the document should be called and should be tendered through him.
On his counter argument, Counsel Abubakar said the objection is misconceived; that the requirement of section 31 (2) of the Evidence Act 1994, does not apply to the cautionary statements of Lance Corporal Bojang and Sergeant Baboucar Sanyang; that the said section refers to confession and does not talk about cautionary statement. According to Counsel Abubakar, the statements of the two accused persons do not fall in the purview of Section 31 (2) of the Evidence Act and therefore, it does not render the documents inadmissible by the reasons of an Independent Witness. For the Statement of Private Mbemba Camara, prosecutor Abubakar said the objection is unfounded and unsubstantiated for the reason that the defence lawyer said the statement was not recorded by the witness and did not go further to tell the court why he holds that deep.
Lawyer Jobe in his argument on points of law, cited the Law of Evidence Book by Hassan B. Jallow; that if a statement is obtained without complying with the required laws to obtain statements from suspects or accused persons, the Court has all the right to reject the statements; that since the statements were obtained without due observance of the laws, he urged the Court to reject the cautionary laws.
The Court overruled Lawyer Jobe’s objection and held that the absence of an Independent Witness when obtaining cautionary statements from the accused person’s by investigators does not render the documents inadmissible. The Court overruled Lawyer Jobe’s argument on Private Mbema Camara’s cautionary statement. All the cautionary statements were admitted as exhibits including that of Corporal Lamin Gibba.
On cross-examination, the witness said he is an experience investigator and knows the rule of engagement; that the accused persons are obliged to give statement to investigators and each of them gave their statements on their own will. He told the Court that he does not know that when obtaining a cautionary statement, the presence of an independent witness is required and did not know that he should not have proceeded in the absence of an independent witness; that he recorded one statement from some of the accused persons and recorded more than one for others.
The witness further told the Court that he does not have a human being as his superior rather the Army when he was asked by Lawyer Jobe who was his superior. Lawyer Jobe told the witness that Private Mbemba Camara was arrested on the 15th July 2017, but the witness told him he has no idea about that.
The matter was adjourned to today at 10am for continuation of hearing.