TRRC’s 8th witness explains deplorable condition of Mile 2

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Babucarr Jatta, commissioner of Prisons at Janjanbureh camp has called on the government of the Gambia to relocate Mile 2 Prisons in Banjul and institute other reforms relating to prison conditions across the country.

Commissioner Jatta made this declaration whilst giving evidence before Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) as part of his recommendation in institutional reform mechanism in the country.

Babucarr Jatta who testified as the 8th witness told the Commission that The Gambia Prison Service needs reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration.

He revealed that Mile 2 Prison is located in a swampy area highly infested with mosquitoes and rodents amongst others near a dumped site.

He lamented that Mile 2 Prison is not habitable and very inhumane, noting that he doesn’t pray for his animal to be tamed in the prison.

He charged the National Assembly to come up with a new Prison Act, noting that the current Prison Act is archaic and out of place.

He called on the authorities to condemn the present Mile 2 Prison and build an ultra-modern structure whilst stressing the need for both national and international partners to come to the aid of The Gambia Prison Service. He, however, expressed gratitude to Prison Fellowship as a good partner to the Gambia Prison Service.

The witness disclosed that there are three established prisons across the country namely; Mile 2 Central Prisons, Jeshwang Prison and the Janjanbureh Prison, but stressed the need for more satellite prisons.

He told the Commission that The Gambia Prison Service is faced with series of challenges namely; housing and welfare of prison officers, officers struggling to get to work on time, poorly paid, the need for educated people to join the Prison Service, training for prison officers and classification of prisoners.

He lamented the fact that some prison inmates are involved in homosexuality inside the prison.

The witness disclosed that as a prison medic, his duty was to treat prisoners whilst in prison and he was being supervised by one Dawda Manga from the Medical and Health Department.

The witness revealed that the general conditions of the prisons has been very poor since Jawara’s government, adding that prisoners used to suffer from beriberi health condition associated with swollen feet, swollen stomach resulting from consumption of poor diet.

He said after 1994, the condition of the prisons remained the same but the prison experienced overcrowdings after the coup.

He said the normal procedures for the detention of prisoners were not followed; adding that many were detained unlawfully under the pretext of Executive Order.

                          On the 22nd July, 1994

The witness testified that on the 22nd July, 1994, he reported to work very early in the morning but upon arrival at Denton Bridge, he observed some movement of troops and he thought was as a result of the joint military exercise of Gambia National Army with the American Marine Unit.

The witness further testified that he was informed by some prison officers that whilst the soldiers were heading to the State House, they stopped at Mile 2 gate and said things will be better and that they should be on stand-by.

The witness disclosed that some days later, the juntas started arresting people and they were brought to Mile 2 Prisons, adding that majority of the detainees were soldiers.

He mentioned Ex-president Jawara’s former IG and AIG, Pa Sallah Jagne and Ebrima Chongan, Captain Mamat Cham, RSM Jeng, NSS, former director, Kebba Ceasay, Lt. Alagie Kanteh and Captain Samsideen Sarr, amongst others.

The witness revealed that he noticed that these detainees have bruises, wounds and injuries on their head, backs, legs and body that needed treatment.

Babucarr Jatta also revealed that some of them had deep laceration and in most time he had to go to their cells to treat them.

The witness told the Commission that at the time they were strictly warned from taking them to the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), he usually conducts cell rounds to see the detainees and administer treatment to them.

Babucarr Jatta disclosed that though he wasn’t present but he received information from Chongan and prison officers that Sana Sabally and his elements came to the security wing firing gun shots; and that some of the detainees were tortured.

He told the Commission that he observed that Kebba Ceesay, Captain Samsideen Sarr and Pa Sallah Jagne had psychological trauma, noting that for sometime Samsideen Sarr refuses to eat.

The witness who disclosed that he was fondly called giving pain because he always gives the detainees pain killers and sometime gives counseling services to the detainees as a result of their state of mind.

The witness told the Commission that the detainees were restricted from going to the hospital until the doctor started seeing them.

He cited instances where prison officers had problem with Sana Sabally and were stripped and put on confinement.

The witness revealed that he also treated Sana Sabally and Sadibou Hydara when they were brought to the security wing by Edward Singhateh and his group.

The witness further revealed that he did not witness anyone being tortured by prison officers.

He told the Commission that Sana Sabally and Sadibou Hydara came with some health conditions, adding that Sadibou Hydara informed him that he had blood pressure and Sana Sabally told him that he had head-ache.

The witness disclosed that Alieu Bah was brought and kept at the confinement and when they saw his condition, Mr Manga advised that he be kept at the infirmary and medical doctors were brought in to assist him.

He pointed out that Alieu Bah was vomiting blood and that it was Alieu Bah’s narration that he was brought with Basirou Barrow to Mile 2 Prison and thereafter taken to the execution ground at Yundum Barracks and killed.

He revealed that Basirou Barrow lost his teeth as a result of beatings of gun butt.

The witness told the Commission that some soldiers like Malick Njai, Mafugi Sanneh, Lamin Baba E. Manneh and Abdou Trawally amongst others were brought to Mile 2 Prison with serious injuries, wounds and bruises.

He said Lamin E. Manneh was having unusual whitish discharge with blood from his ear, adding that his eardrum was damaged as a result of gun shots near his ear and beatings of the gun butt.

He told the Commission that most of the detainees had difficulties in walking and that when Yahya Drammeh, Mballow Kanteh, Ensa Baldeh, Sulayman Sarr, Bamba Drammeh and host of others were brought to Mile 2 Prison, he observed that they had multiple injuries, citing Sulayman Sarr who had a gun shot in one of his legs.

He told the Commission that Yahya Drammeh was vomiting blood and he was kept at the headquarters with doctors attending to him but eventually died.

The witness revealed that he first treated Alieu Bah as a detainee on the 11 November 1994 attack and later as a detainee on the Kartong attackers.

He explained that Alieu Bah, Lamin F. Jammeh and Lamin Jarju were brought to the security wing and he found that they had pains and injuries.

He said Alieu Bah informed him that he once escaped from execution ground at Fajara Barracks and went to Casamance.

The witness said he never saw Lt. Basirou Barrow in Mile 2 Prison but was told by Alieu Bah that he was taken to Mile 2 Prison and then later taken to Yundum Barracks and executed.

Hearing continues today.

Author: Bruce Asemote