Gambia’s intelligence chief denies concealment of evidence

Jan 8, 2021, 11:53 AM | Article By: Pa Modou Cham

Ousman Sowe, the director general of State Intelligence Service (SIS) in his second appearance before the TRRC on Thursday denied claims that he gentrified the torture chamber at the then NIA, now called SIS to conceal evidence of torture that occurred in their premises.

Continuing his testimony, Counsel Faal told him (Sowe) that NIA officers used to take people's belongings without returning them. The witness accepted that claim but said it was not usual.

Sowe confirmed that the SIS is no more mandated to arrest or detain individuals.

Regarding the alleged information that the NIA was involved in drug trafficking, Counsel Faal asked whether he knew Lamin Touray alias Mosquito. Sowe replied in the positive.

Sowe added that Lamin was later dismissed from his duties. At this juncture, Counsel Faal told him that Lamin was nabbed with drugs in 2016 and he (Sowe) was the one that sent him on interdiction.

Faal said it was false when Sowe claimed that he got no information about NIA involvement in drug dealings because he was the one who sent Lamin into interdiction after being nabbed with cannabis.

Sowe also confirmed before the commission that torture was a culture at the then NIA.

"I led the investigation of Lamin Kabou on alleged drug trafficking. He was arrested but I was not aware that he was tortured. I apologise to Kabou for the torture he had gone through during the investigation," Sowe added.

On the issue of Lalo Gitteh, Counsel Faal indicated that Lalo mentioned Sowe as one of the panelists who interrogated him. At that juncture, the testimony of Lalo was televised and he (Sowe) confirmed his involvement, revealing that he was tortured. 

Sowe accepted being part of the negotiation to take back General Bobo to Angola. He also stated that he got to know the existence of ‘The Talk through Machine’ in 2003 that was used by the NIA for investigation and torture of detainees.

"There was a torture chamber at the NIA when I took over as NIA boos. The chamber had an iron bed permanently fix to the ground and shackles. The colour of the wall was red, representing danger," Sowe disclosed.

Counsel showed him 8 contract agreements of the NIA and Gigo Construction for the gentrification of the NIA territory, which was headed by Sowe as NIA boss.

Counsel further told him the issue was to rebuild the infamous Bamba-Dinka. However, witness denied the allegation, saying Bamba-Dinka is still as it was.

Counsel Faal told Sowe that he knew that the priority of the new government was to investigate crimes that occurred at the NIA and the torture chamber would be the center of the investigation. He continued that gentrifying the chamber is like hiding crimes committed at the NIA.

Sowe said he gentrified the chamber just to change the mindset of the officers in the way they have to operate.

"Out of 571 detained at the NIA from 1997 to 2016, 50% were illegally detained," Counsel Faal stated.

Faal continued saying that the commission got information that Sowe had burnt documents from office of Louise Gomez. However, the witness denied burning any document.