Gambia: Ex-NIA DG Denies Unlawful Detentions, Tortures

27 November 2020

Lamin Bo Baaji, former director of Military Intelligence and later NIA, yesterday testified before the TRRC, denying allegations of unlawful detentions and tortures during his time as NIA director.

Giving account of his first visit to the NIA Headquarters, Baaji said he was asked to appear before a panel. He said he was told that it was Sam Tamba who was supposed to appear before the panel comprising police officers and NIA officers.

"Sam was interrogated and at sometime the questioning was suspended till the next day due to time. Alhagie Morr alias Edrisa Jobe told me Sam couldn't go home and I suspected that they didn't want me to go with them because I would advise him on what to respond. When I came the follow day, I realised he was tortured and there were injuries on him."

He continued that he asked why he was tortured, and Alhagie Morr told him that he was among those who took weapons and sold it to the Senegalese rebels.

The witness added that Sam's case proceeded to court and he ended being locked at Mile 2 Prison.

In 2008, he testified that he was appointed the director general of NIA and when he came in, he advised the officers to stop illegal detentions and tortures.

He confirmed that despite his advice, unlawful arrests and detentions continued.

He accepted responsibilities for illegal actions of his officers in the execution of their official duties.

Counsel Faal told him that they have discovered that 50 people were unlawfully detained at the NIA during his time, but the witness denied the allegation.

At this juncture the evidence book was given to him but he replied that he never knew about unlawful detention during this tenure.

"I didn't check whether they were unlawfully detained because I believe they should not have been there for 72 hours. I can tell you that nobody was detained there for 72 hours because I have the records."

At this juncture, the counsel named list of people who were illegally detained during his time as DG without being released for 72 hours, as stated on the institution's registration book. The witness, however, accepted some of the allegations and denied some.

The counsel read a statement of Lamin Kabou as saying he was taken to the NIA and was visited by Essa Badjie and NIA top brasses. According to him, Essa Badjie asked Bo Baaji about who was responsible for beating Lamin Kabou, and Bo Baaji told him it was the responsibility of Alhagie Morr and his men.

The witness, however, testified that the allegations were totally false.

He stated that the Lamin incident happened in June and he addressed the officers that such incident shouldn't have happened anymore, adding that was the reason he was redeployed on August 2009 to the Armed Forces.

"I reported to President Jammeh about how Lamin was beaten and that I would open an investigation into the matter. The president told me I'm the one to decide but my responsibility was to report to him."

Testifying on why he was relieved from his duties, Baaji said it was due to his bold step, saying during his time as DG, he didn't allow anyone to be tortured at the NIA.

On 21 November 2009, he testified that he was arrested and taken to Mile 2 by soldiers and NIA officer Alhagie Morr with 'Jungler' Nuha Badjie of State Guard.

"I was detained at Mile 2 for more than two weeks before I was taken to NIA Headquarters. At NIA, I was taken to investigation house where I faced a panel. In the panel, I found Solo Bojang, Numa Kujabi, Bora Colley, GPB Gomez, Alhagie Camara, Alhagie Yakuba Badjie, Lamin Cham, Lamin Sanyang, Sukuta Jammeh of NIA, Louis Gomez, Sakho Jammeh, Alhagie Morr."

According to him, they asked whether Lang Tombong was part of the 2006 coup, and he told them he didn't know but they replied that he was lying.

"I was detained at Mile 2 for three months. One day, RSM Alhagie Jobe picked me and I was taken to NIA at night. A nylon bag was covered on my head and I was being questioned in which they threatened that if I didn't speak, they would kill me. I was beaten but I couldn't recognise anyone of them."

"In another occasion at the panel in NIA, I was told that I mobilised men in Guinea Bissau and I bought them guns and boats to conduct a coup, but I replied that it was false."

Baaji further testified that he was informed that Solo Bojang ordered his killing with Lang Tombong.

The witness added that he was to be executed but because of the efforts of his lawyer and an anonymous soldier, he is alive.

He said he was later pardoned by Yahya Jammeh on the 22nd of July, 2015.

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