The Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice has taken an uncompromising stance on allegation of torture reportedly meted out to some Mile II striking prisoners.
“We, of course, take any allegation of torture very seriously. Particularly in this era where we want to be seen as pacesetters of human rights in our continent,” Aboubacarr Tambadou told reporters during a press conference at the Ministry of Justice in Banjul on Tuesday.
Last month, a protest erupted in Mile II, one of the country’s main correctional facilities where some prisoners complained about being detained for years without trial. Authorities dispatched a team to help restore calm in the detention center. However, reports emerged indicating that some inmates were subjected to degradation treatment and solitary confinement.
Tambadou said he has heard reports of these allegations and that his office is looking into it.
“So far, the initial response of prison’s authorities is a denial that it didn’t take place and no one was tortured,” Mr. Tambadou said, adding medical examination was suggested to prove that the detainees were not tortured. “So, it is an allegation at this point in time. It has not been proven,” he remarked.
Situated in the outskirts of Banjul, Mile II Central Prison was described by many observers as The Gambia’s gulag where thousands of prisoners of conscience, political opponents, activists were incarcerated under the watch of former longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh’s.
Minister Tambadou said his office has not dismissed the allegations, promising to get to the bottom of the investigation in a near future.
He spokespo the issue of solitary confinement saying people are taken to prison for a purpose. “Even when you are accused and detained, there is still presumption of innocence.”
Tambadou was however quick to clarify that prisons have regulations that inmates are required to observe.
He said if prisons authorities believe there are trouble-makers who are instigating other prisoners to engage in acts of indiscipline, they can take a number of measures including at times isolating detainees.
“This doesn’t mean confinement but taking them away from the rest of prisoners and deny them the opportunity to continue instigating troubles,” he said. “Based on the information I received that is what has taken place.”
The Minister cited the former Director General of the defunct National Intelligence Agency, Yankuba Badjie, as being suspected of being part of those instigating troubles. “They’ve not been kept in solitary confinement,” Tambadou reiterated.