The 2006 March coupists were brutally tortured to extract confessionary statements from them, Harry Sambou, the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency told the TRRC on Monday. Sambou said the tortures were carried out by Jammeh’s assassin team called the jungullars.
Sambou was the Director of Operations at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) when Jammeh appointed him acting DG of the NIA. He was preparing the commission’s budget, when he received a phone call from the state house to come and answer. He was summoned to the office of the then SG Mamburay Njie. He was informed that he was hired DG NIA with immediate effect. He resigned from the IEC to take up his new appointment.
He said he was informed about an aborted coup. That his predecessor, the then NIA DG Daba Marena was implicated in that coup. Marena was removed and he was hired to replace him.
“A panel of investigations was supposed to have been formed to interview all those arrested and detained in connection with the abortive coup. Officers from various security and armed forces were supposed to be part of the panel,” he said.
When asked by Lead Counsel Essa Faal as to who was supposed to select the panel members, Sambou had this to say: “I think Lang Tombong did in collaboration with the President then. Lang Tombong Tamba, the then chief of staff.”
Further quizzed as to how did get to know that the panel was supposed to be set up by Tamba and Jammeh, Sambou said he was informed by Tamba. “He came to tell me. Lang Tombong Tamba told me. Lang Tombong Tamba and the President set up the panel,” he testified.
“The NIA was represented at the panel by Deputy Director General Momodou Hydara. He was nominated by the then CDS Lang Tombong Tamba,” he added.
Sambou said it was not his role to approve the appointment of Hydara. “I did not have to approve; orders came from the above,” he said.
According to Sambou, the NIA headquarters was the venue for late torture of detainees. He said the coup suspects were being shuttled between the mile two prison and the NIA to be tortured at the NIA.
“The panel should have been housed in the premises of the NIA, because there was hall in the mainyard, upstairs that was like a conference room and it had enough space. HE Yahya Jammeh gave instructions that the proceedings take place there. The panel was chaired by the then Deputy Director General Momodou Hydara, there were policemen, members of the military intelligence. I came to find out GTRS was also there,” he adduced in evidence.
Lead Counsel Faal reminded him about the testimony of Alhagie Martin, in which Martin told the commission that the detainees were being tortured for failing to give a satisfactory statement(s) to the investigators. Sambou confirmed that the detainees were indeed tortured.
Counsel Faal further puts it to Sambou: The evidence received by the commission is that this panel is comprised of investigators, statement takers, tortures, and recorders of forced confessions, would you agree? Sambou in response said: Rightly so.
You agree that this was the arraignment? Positive, he said.
Evidence was extorted from these witnesses, he added.
“I have written in my statement that following the establishment of the panel and the bringing in of the detainees to question them, initially it used to be during the day, and seemingly everything went well during the day, during working hours. But after working hours, I would go home, seven o’clock. Apparently, detainees were brought in late in the night by the jungullars, some in civilian clothes, some in their uniforms, I heard some of them wore black, black, that is when I found who they were, and they were maltreated, tortured in the premises of the NIA up to the early morning hours and taken back to mile two. I would only know when I came in the morning and the security guards will tell me,” he testified.
“The first three occasions, I was to give briefings to HE, His Excellency and I told him. I said, I heard some detainees are being beaten, he giggles, I just looked at him, he said, tell them to cooperate,” he added.
Further quizzed by Counsel Faal, “Were you being ordered to torture people to confess?” In response Sambou said: “The inference was that I didn’t implement that order, I just went back to my office.”