One of the victims of the April 14th 2016 demonstration who testified at the trial of the Gambia’s former Interior Minister has accused the ousted Jammeh government of “treating opposition political detainees like donkeys. The food they fed us in prison is fit for animal consumption.”
Narrating her ordeal before the Bellinzona Federal Tribunal on Wednesday, Fatou Camara said Mile 2 and Janjanbureh Prisons were not hygienic at all. She described Janjanbureh prisons as the worst in the country. “We slept in darkness. We were packed like sheep in room without windows. I got sick and was rushed to the hospital. The food quality was very poor. Inmates were not given the freedom to pray in a clean, healthy environment. Both our family and lawyers were not allowed to see us,” she said.
Mr. Sonko — accused of having committed multiple crimes against humanity – is the highest-ranking state official ever to be tried for international crimes in application of the principle of universal jurisdiction in Europe.
The witness, who blamed Ousman Sonko for being the Gambia’s problem during the Jammeh dictatorship era, said the prisons were congested, full of bad odour and that inmates slept on bare concrete floor. She said the dire situation was so upsetting to their detained party leader of the United Democratic Party Ousainou Darboe that he threw his own matress outside in protest. She said “there is nothing good about Gambian prisons, we don’t know how we survived.”
She said she knew about the demonstration when she found some UDP youths in Serekunda led by the late Solo Sandeng who was talking on portable loud speaker highlighting the need to sanitize elections through electoral reforms, denial of permit to hold peaceful demonstration and the negative impact of the Gambia/Senegal border closure. She said Mr. Sandeng asked her to go on wedding until after the demonstration when they would brainstorm on what happened. “All of a sudden I saw people running. A woman told paramilitary officer that an opposition enemy is here pointing at me. The officer slapped me. His colleague asked why but the assaulting officer said he did the right thing. I told the colleague officer to leave him because this brutal would soon end.”
Camara and others were bundled in a police van and escorted them to the PIU headquartersin Kanifing where the former Police Chief Yankuba Sonko wanted to diffuse the case. But the former KMC Mayor Yankuba Colley said Minister Ousman Sonko insisted the demonstrators had launched a coup and should be taken to the Mile 2 Prisons.
“I heard Ousman Sonko’s named being mentioned but I didn’t see him. They took us to Mile 2 until at night when they transferred us to NIA. I told them I need to break my fast but I was told to think of what lies ahead of me. At night they took myself and Fatoumatta Jawara to the NIA in Banjul. We found Lang Marong and Falang Sonko there. While being questioned another man insulted me for being an opposition member threateningto deal with us. They wanted us to implicate Ousainou Darboe as the mastermind of the demonstration. We refused because he was not aware of it.
“Soon a man put plastic bag on my head, lifted me up and threw me on bed and called one Haruna to bring the whip. He wanted to put something in my mouth but I refused. They beat me until I could not cry any more,” Camara said.
In between sobs, she said she was thrown on the grass and her body became wet. I recited La Ilaha ilah which they interpretted to be a cursing. I could not stand and sit properly. Even walk was hard. I am still in pain, my eyes and left leg us still not in order. I was in a coma and asked for water but was refused. I appeared on panel. One man wanted to inject us with vinegar. They took us Nogoi, Fatoumatta to Mile 2. I was left naked and was oozing blood when they took us to Mile 2. There was no democracy, political and human rights in the Gambia under Jammeh. Gambia was likevhell. I don’t want what happened there to be repeated anywhere in the world again. Power imprisoned us and not the law.”
She described the late Nogoi Njie as a strong and good political comrade. We were together in both Mile 2 and Janjanbureh. She fought hard with jungulars that’s why became weak. At one point we thought she died in Janjanbureh when they rushed her to the hospital.”