By Kebba Jeffang
Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) of The Gambia, Lieutenant General Masanneh Kinteh has confirmed that four soldiers who are alleged to have taken part in the extra-judicial killings and torture for the ex-president Yahya Jammeh commonly called ‘jungulars’ were recently released from custody due to lack of evidence. Foroyaa had previously reported the release of four soldiers in its publication in June.
The head of the armed forces who spoke to journalists on Friday, August 17 said the decision was prompted by the legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Chambers.
However, he said 11 others are still being held as investigations continue in their cases.
“Following the first opinion from the AG Chambers, it is established that no evidence of commission of offence exists in respect of the under-mentioned suspects and that apparently it will be impossible to find evidence linking them to the commission of any offence during their service at the patrol team.
As a result, the following detainees have now been released for lack of evidence. They are WO1 Busso Modou, Warrant Officer Class 2 Jallow Abdoulie, Warrant Officer Class 2 Samba Lamin and Staff Sergeant Badgie Lamin,” he said.
CDS Kinteh added that the matter involving other detainees were also forwarded to the Attorney General for the second legal opinion to review the case file. He said this will enable the defence headquarters to take appropriate action accordingly.
He recalled that: “One officer and nine other ranks were arrested in February 2017 in connection to numerous allegations of human rights violations that were committed ranging from torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.
CDS on Detention without Trial
He said they are aware and concerned about the provision of the Constitution that nobody is supposed to be detained beyond 72 hours without the person being brought before a competent court.
However, he added that: “The people who are being detained, we are not detaining them because they have stolen somebody’s property. These are people who are suspected to be alleged to have committed some of the most heinous crimes on human rights abuses.”
“So therefore, it is important for us to put things in their proper context. We are not detaining them indefinitely; there is a process that is going on and it will over very soon,” Kinteh said.
He said they are working on military capacity problems and proper governance structures which will help changing army’s face to respect fundamental human rights and rule of law.
Military Training in China
The army chief informed that several personnel will soon be leaving for China to under courses in various disciplines.
“My recent working visit to the Peoples’ Republic of China has been of immense success. The Gambia Armed Forces has been offered eleven slots across a wide range of courses and soon members of the Gambia Armed Forces will depart for training in the People’s Republic of China.
This is indeed a very good beginning for us and of course and important one,” he said at a quarterly press conference in Kololi.
He said the training will help fill the capacity void. He thanked the Chinese government for the assistance.
“We have a responsibility to protect peoples’ civic rights and liberties as armed forces. We must be conscious and be responsible on how to carry out our tasks in protecting the territorial integrity of the country,” CDS Kinteh added.
The Gambia Armed Forces has been developing the capacity of its personnel in order to be more responsive and ensuring its political neutrality since the coming of President Adama Barrow.
Soldier whose Body was found in a well
Kinteh said the military police had concluded investigations into the death of a colleague whose body was found in a well in Tanji few months ago. He said another joint investigation is underway to ascertain the cause of his death.
“The Gambia Armed Forces Military Police concluded an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Private Baboucarr Bah whose corpse was found in a well at Tanji.
Accordingly, postmortem was conducted to establish the cause of death. After the postmortem, it was recommended that further investigations should be carried out to further ascertain the circumstance surrounding the unfortunate incident,” he said.
He said as such, the matter is now forwarded to a joint investigation team comprising of State Intelligence Service (SIS), the Military Intelligence and the Criminal Intelligence Wing of the Police. He said the joint investigation team has already begun the task.
Army Generals’ Case Reaches Climax
CDS has also informed the media the status of the trial involving senior military personnel in the persons of Brigadier Generals Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba. The two were arrested following their return from Equatorial Guinea where they went with former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh.
“The general court martial (GCM 1 2018: The State v. Brigaded General Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba), I want to say that the court is in progress and is at the tail end almost,” he said.
He said the prosecution has closed their case and the accused persons were supposed to open their defence but their lawyer has filed a no-case submission.
“The matter is now set for ruling or judgment in the no-case submission by the defence on the next adjourned date,” he said.
Soldiers in Secret Chat Group
Kinteh also informed that the case of group of soldiers who were arrested for using secret WhatsApp chat group threatening country’s security have gone far in hearing.
He called the title of the case as “The general court martial (GCM 1 2017: In the matter of the State v. Captain Yaya Jammeh and 11 others). He alleged that the accused were involved in a secret chat group with the code name ‘Ajamats’ meaning true friends dealing with ultimate intent to overthrow or destabilize the government.
“The group is composed of disgruntled elements of the Armed Forces and the court is progressing smoothly. The prosecution has closed their case and the accused have entered their defence with the fifth accused to continue with his testimony in the next adjourn date sometime in October,” he said.
One Soldier Released due to Lack of Evidence
He said three soldiers in the persons of Warrant Officer Class 1 Badgie Sulayman, Lance Corporal Kujabie Lamin and Lance Corporal Jarju Dembo were arrested upon their return from Darfur in March 2018 for their alleged involvement in the secret chat group called ‘Ajamat.’
“The investigations were mounted into their activities with the chat group. A report was compiled and sent to AG Chamber’s for legal opinion. Based on the legal opinion, Lance Corporal Dembo Jarju was released from custody while other two remain under detention as a result of further investigations which has been concluded and the case file has been sent to AG Chambers for another opinion.
Dismissal of 3 GAF members
He said they have fired three members of GAF due to their involvement in drug dealing.