31 January 2018

Gambia: Court Martial - Witnesses Explain How Cautionary Statements Were Obtained

Lance Corporal Omar Jammeh, the seventh and Sergeant Momodou Gibba, the eight prosecution witnesses testified before the general Court-Martial on how they obtained cautionary statements from some of the accused persons.

They appeared before the panelists of the general Court-Martial on Tuesday the 30th of January, 2018 to give account of how they obtained the cautionary statements of some of the accused persons.

The accused persons are Captain Yahya Jammeh, Lieutenant Abdoulie Jarju, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh, Sergeant Baboucarr Sanneh, Sergeant Malick Bojang, Corporal Sulayman Sanyang, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Lamin Gibba, Corporal Ebrima Jallow, Lance Corporal Samboujang Bojang, Lance Corporal Abba Badjie, Private Mbemba Camara and Private Alieu Sanneh.

The 12 soldiers are facing prosecution on 9 counts namely; commuting a civil offence punishable under section 83 of the Gambia Armed Forces Act (GAF Act) that is to say Treason Contrary to Section 35 (1) (d), incitement to mutiny contrary to section 47 (a) of the GAF Act, failure to report mutiny contrary to section 47 (e) of GAF Act, conspiracy to commit mutiny contrary to section 7 (b) of the GAF Act, Endeavour to persuade members of the Armed Forces to take part in mutiny contrary to section 47 (c) of the GAF Act, Negligent or wilful interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 (c) of the GAF Act, Connivance of desertion contrary to section 54 (a) of the GAF Act, Connivance of desertion contrary to Section 54 (a) of the GAF Act and Negligent interference with lawful custody contrary to section 65 of the GAF Act.

PW7, Lance Corporal Omar, told the court that he knew Sulayman Sanayang and Abba Badjie. He said he was ordered by his superior to take cautionary statement from Sulayman Sanyang.

On how he recorded the statement, the witness said at Fajara Military Police Charge Office that he introduced himself to the accused person and told him that he was the one assigned to record his cautionary statement. He added that that he read the cautionary wordings to the witness; that anything he said will be used against him in court.

He recorded the cautionary wordings of the accused person, he read and he agreed, signed and thumb printed. He said he obliged the accused person to write his own cautionary statement but the accused person asked him to write it on his own behalf. After recording it, he read it to the accused person and he agreed, signed and thumb printed. At this juncture, the state Prosecutor Mohammed Abubakar applied in court for the witness to have a look at the cautionary statements. The witness identified the documents as his, adding that the handwriting and he signature were his.

In cross-examination, the Defence Lawyer Sheriff Kumba Jobe objected to the admissibility of the two cautionary statements and urged the court to disallow the admissibility of the documents in the interest of justice and fair play.

Counsel M.B. Abubakar said the objection lacks merit and is misconceived. He said the particular section cited by Lawyer Jobe in the Evidence Act did not have effect on the document as it talks about confession. The court overruled the objection made by Lawyer Jobe and admitted the two cautionary statements as exhibits.

The Witness said at the time of recording the cautionary statements, there was no independent witness. He added that he approached someone to be an independent witness but that person declined. He said it was his duty to find an independent witness. He said he was not part of the board of investigators.

Sergeant Momodou Gibba, the 8th prosecution witness said as military personnel, one of their responsibilities is investigation and obtaining statements.

In his testimony, he said sometimes in July last year, he obtained the statements of Lance Couple Ebrima Jallow in relation to the escape of a detainee; Sergeant Yusupha Jatta. He told the court that he invited the accused person in a room and introduced himself to him.

"I told him that there is no need to fear; I am here to obtain you cautionary statement" he said.

The witness said he asked the accused about the escape of Sergeant Yusupha Jatta then the witness begun narrating and he recorded his cautionary statement.

"I cautioned the accused person (Lance Couple Jallow) and I read it to him and he said he understood it as well as signed and thumb printed it" the witness said.

After that, the witness said Lance Couple Jallow told him that he wanted to write another statement. "I recorded that statement whilst he signed and thumb printed it."

The witness was shown the cautionary statement which he identified as his, adding that the signature and the handwriting were his. Prosecutor Abubakar tendered the document in Court for it to be admitted but there was no objection from Lawyer S.K. Jobe. The Court-Martial admitted the two cautionary statements made by Lance Couple Ebrima Jallow dated the 14th day of July, 2017 as exhibit M1 and M2.

The case was adjourned to Friday on the 2nd of February, 2018 for continuation of hearing of PW9 and others.

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