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TRRC finds SOU extremely brutal under Jammeh

Feb 11, 2022, 10:59 AM | Article By: Adama Tine

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has found the Special Operations Unit (SOU) of the Gambia’s erstwhile National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to have been extremely brutal under the reign of former president Yahya Jammeh.

According to the report, the SOU carried out its operations with extreme brutality, enjoyed impunity and was so extreme in how detainees were subjected to various forms of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that even the other units of the NIA viewed the SOU as the ‘Junglers of the NIA.’

The report added that the NIA special unit was established in 2007 only to satisfy Jammeh’s rule by going after its citizens, especially those who opposed or questioned his rule. 

The report further pointed out that the Special Operations Unit intimidated and persecuted all persons who were perceived to be in opposition to Jammeh’s agenda including close associates and business partners who had fallen out with him. 

The report also said the NIA special unit was engaged in spying, arresting and torturing members of the public and fabricating evidence to maintain a false narrative that favoured Jammeh’s agenda for self-perpetuation. 

“Exhibit 193 C shows that about one hundred and fifteen (115) people were arrested and unlawfully detained by the SOU Officer Command (OC) Lamin Darboe of NIA,” said the commission in the report. 

Furthermore, the report said personnel of the unit became thugs for hire to private citizens engaging in enforcing agreements and debt collection. Over the years, it was reported that the unit in particular and the NIA became synonymous with fabrication of evidence, cover-ups of illegal activities, instilling fear and torturing detainees. 

“At the latter part of Jammeh’s regime, the NIA’s work was synergized with that of the “Junglers” (a shadowy paramilitary group who used to carry out unlawful killings, tortures and forcibly disappear people) and the Bulldozers,” the TRRC said.  

It stated that SOU used to report directly to NIA Director General through its officer commanding and their operations mainly involved matters that Jammeh had interest or issues that threatened his power.

In addition, the commission said 210 detainees at the SOU were routinely taken for “VIP treatment” which ironically meant severe torture in cases where a detainee failed to confess or generally where the NIA are instructed to torture certain individuals to inflict pain and suffering, especially in cases that Jammeh has particular interest. 

The TRRC added that the SOU was also involved in the unlawful and prolonged detention of public officials at the request of Jammeh, saying by virtue of the unbridled powers given to the unit, they enriched themselves by turning into “guns for hire” to harass and intimidate businesses and debtors, often on the instructions of those with economic and political connections.

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