‘Jammeh uses prison to punish politicians, public figures’

Jun 10, 2020, 12:23 PM | Article By: Pa Modou Cham

Lamin Korta, a native of Katong village yesterday testified before the TRRC and revealed that former President Yahya Jammeh used the state central prison (Mile 2) as a ground to punish politicians, “big men” and public figures.

Korta, who joined the prison service in 1977, dwelled on the relationship between former prisons director, David Colley, and Yahya Jammeh, saying they had a strong relationship because they both lived in Kanilai. He added that Colley used to carry out any order from Jammeh.

Witness confirmed that during Jammeh's time, there was bad management at the prison, bad food and interference from the former head of state himself.

"Jammeh used to call the prison as his five star hotel. If Jammeh wanted to punish big men, politicians or public figure, he would lock them at Mile 2 as a form of punishment."

On the unlawful admission of individuals at the prison, the witness said some prisoners on the orders of Jammeh are brought without any documentation. 

"When those kinds of prisoners were to be brought, David Colley would command the preparation of the security wing. Example of such cases was Seedy Jaiteh, the current director of GAMTEL and Ousman Jammeh the then deputy director of agriculture, who were both detained at Mile 2 without any paper."

Mr. Korta continued that they used to transfer some detainees from the prison cells to another location, which he believed was a violation of their rights.

Explaining the condition of the remind wing, the witness told the commission that the place was not comfortable at all due to overcrowding. 

"The capacity of the cells should carry maximum of 15 people, so if they put 20 or more in that small room with their chamber pots, having urinated in it; that’s violation of their human rights.”

He added that the condition of the prison was inhumane.

As regards food consumed by the prisoners, he testified that the foods were not good, especially the one called ‘pap.’ He added that pap used to make prisoners sick due to the way it was prepared.

He stated that many prisoners died at the prison after contacting beriberi and it was a common knowledge to prison administration but nothing was done till the change of government in 2017. He said those who died as a result of the pap food was the caused by David Colley. He added that Colley used to feed prisoners with dead bull

"One Musa Suso once took David Colley to court after he was pardoned but he was later brought back to the prison for taking David to court. Suso was put under hard labour."

He continued that certain prisoners were denied medical attention. He added that when prisoners were to be referred to hospital, David Colley would remove some individuals from the list.

He added that when the UN Human Rights Commission came to visit the prison, the prisoners pointed Ebrima Jammeh as the chief torturer and eight others. 

Korta said he was arrested and later taken to serious crime unit but eventually released.