By Abdoulie John
police custody last Sunday, after being arrested and charged along with 8 executive members.Gambian authorities remain mute as to questions continue to swirl around the circumstances surrounding his death. “I am not familiar with the case. So, I cannot make any comment,” Police spokesperson Lamin Njie told this reporter when asked whether Sheriff Dibba died from torture as suggested by some independent news sites, providing alternatives information to Gambians.Over these past weeks, GNTCA executive members have been standing trial since their arrest. State prosecutors have accused them for “intentionally and unlawfully levying payment on the drivers on manifest tariff and other unauthorised payments which is detrimental to the economy of The Gambia.” They have been released on bail by a Gambian court following the demise of their colleague.Several Gambians have died in custody, in recent years. Concerns are mounting that GNTCA leader died as a result of torture.
The spokesperson of the US-based Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA) Pasamba Jow blamed the authorities for what has happened. “There is a systematic institutionalized system of abuse including murder by the state with impunity. It is quite disheartening that the Jammeh dictatorship continues to brutalize Gambians with impunity,” he said.
He said he is not surprised to find out that authorities are remaining silent over this issue. “In a democracy where justice reigns supreme, one could expect some sort of redress from the State, but unfortunately for Gambians, what we have is a rogue State run by a criminal syndicate under the leadership of a brutal tyrant,” he added.
In a sizzling editorial, Foroyaa, an opposition-linked newspaper widely circulated in the country, called on government to conduct a “a coroner’s inquest to find out the cause of death and conditions of detention before death so that that maximum effort would be made to improve on conditions of detention.”
In November 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs Christof Heyns and Juan Méndez were prevented from conducting their investigations properly. But their findings were astonishing.
“During my investigation I found that torture is a consistent practice carried out by the National Intelligence Agency. In cases where there is a real or perceived threat to national security there is a corresponding increase in acts of torture and ill-treatment during the detention and arrest process,” Mr. Méndez noted.
The Gambia continues to be spotlighted for its poor human rights record. Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 military coup, has been accused by activists of carrying out summary executions, clamping down on political opponents and the media.