For The Alleged Execution of West African Migrants
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in its Investigative Report and Recommendations to Government stated that former President Yahya Jammeh, his enablers and accomplices be prosecuted for the massacre of West African Migrants by state agents commonly known as the ‘Junglers.’
According to the Commission, Jammeh and his accomplices should not only be prosecuted for their roles in the unlawful killings of the migrants but also for participating in the cover ups of these killings.
The TRRC identifies these enablers and accomplices to Jammeh under Theme 14 of the TRRC Report and Government Position on the ‘White Paper’ as thus:
From R: Malick Jatta, followed by Omar A Jallow and Amadou BadgiYahya JammehOusman SonkoSolo BojangMalick Jatta (Alfidie)Sanna ManjangKawsu Camara (Bombardier)Tumbul TambaBai LoweNuha BadjieLanding TambaAlieu JengOmar A. Jallow (Oya)Buboucarr JallowLamin Sillah
Below is the reproduction of the Commission’s Report and Government’s Position as stated in the ‘White Paper’ in one of the most horrific topics investigated by the Commission, showing how economic migrants were brutally executed and allegedly dumped in bushes and inside an abandoned well in Casamance.
Theme 14: The Killing of the West African Migrants
On 22 July 2005, over sixty-seven economic migrants (including 50 Ghanaians, 7 Nigerians, 2 Senegalese, 3 Ivoirians, and 2 Togolese) entered The Gambia hoping to get to Europe via the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. They were advised by their agents to travel to The Gambia where a boat would be on standby to transport them to Europe. However, upon arrival, their agent/smuggler abandoned them. Many of the migrants were subsequently detained, perceived as mercenaries, arrested, and executed by Gambian State Agents comprised of the Marine Unit, Police officers from the now defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and the Junglers. The execution site was by an old well.On 23 July 2005, dead bodies were discovered in a forest at the Tanji Bird Reserve towards Tanji Village. The discoveries were reported to the Police by a passer-by.Following local and international outcry from human rights activities/groups, and the Ghanaian Foreign Minister at the time Nana Akufo Addo’s meeting with President Yahya Jammeh, and his press statement on 16 August 2005, an investigation was launched in 2005 to investigate the killings of the West African migrants. The investigation panel was headed by Malamin Cessay, a former Commissioner of the Gambian Police Force. However, the investigation was blighted with falsehoods, cover-ups, and destruction of evidence.Having conducted its investigation, the Commission found that the accounts provided by the witnesses relating to the arrests, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings of the West African migrants in July 2005, and on Gambia soil, was consistent throughout and ought to be believed. The victims were economic migrants hoping to get to Europe via The Gambia, but were perceived as mercenaries by former President Yahya Jammeh’s regime.The Commission found that on 21 July 2005, the West African migrants and victims, many of whom were from Ghana travelled on a boat from Mbour inMartin Kyere, Survivor of the 2005 Massacre
Senegal and arrived near Barra in The Gambia on the morning of 22 July 2005. At least 5 or 7 migrants jumped off the boat, swam to the shore, and entered Banjul. The remaining migrants attempted to contact their agent without success. They were subsequently arrested by Police officers when they tried to find a boat that would take them to Banjul to join their connecting boat to Europe. The migrants were arrested without being informed of the reason for their arrest and taken to Barra Police Station. The migrants were transferred from Barra Police Station to the Navy Headquarters in Banjul. A large number of high-ranking officials were present at the Navy Headquarters that night, and included Biran Mbye (Police Operations Commander); Assan Sarr (former Navy Commander); Abou Njie (Deputy Inspector General of Police); Ngorr Secka; Foday Barry; Baba Saho; Saddy Gassama; as well as other senior NIA officials and Jungler Kawsu Camara (nicknamed Bombardier). Many of these officials would subsequently go on to participate in the cover-up of the massacre.
This incident coincided with the 22 July “Revolution Day” celebrations and while attending the celebrations in Banjul with other senior officials, President Jammeh was informed about the migrants’ apprehension. Yahya Jammeh, whose previous attempted coup against his regime left him paranoid, dealt with coupists brutally as a way of deterring others from launching coups against his government. With his history of paranoia, the Commission concluded that when he was informed about the migrants onshore, a sense of “fear and paranoia about a new possible coup gripped him, leading him to make a rushed decision, believing that the migrants were mercenaries or coup-plotters” – which the Commission believes “led him to give direct orders to the Junglers to summarily execute the defenceless harmless migrants.”As attested by multiple witnesses who testified before the Commission, there was nothing in the appearances or behaviour of the migrants which suggested or might have suggested that they were something else other than migrants. The Commission asserts that, even if they were criminals or broke Gambian law in any way or form, due process should have been adhered to. Despite being economic migrants, the Commission affirms that former President Yahya Jammeh, in his fear and paranoia, backed by State Agents under his command, already made up their minds and the migrants were extra judicially executed.The Commission’s investigations revealed that the migrants were brutally tortured at the Navy Headquarters when additional officers and members of the Marine Unit, Police, the NIA, and Junglers arrived on site. They were later tied up with ropes, forced onto two pickup trucks and transported to a forest about two kilometres away from Yahya Jammeh’s residence in Kanilai. The Junglers included Solo Bojang, Malick Jatta, and Sanna Manjang. The Commission found evidence substantiating the fact that Solo Bojang was in regular contact with President Yahya Jammeh that night, and was ordered by the President to execute the migrants.The Commission found that when the pickup truck transporting the migrants stopped in the forest, Martin Kyere, the only Ghanaian migrant that survived the massacre managed to escape by jumping off the back of the truck and making a run for it. The other migrants however did not survive as they were shot alternatively by the Junglers and pushed into a well. After their heinous act, they returned to Kanilai and President Jammeh was briefed by a Jungler as to what had taken place.The Commission found that on 23 July 2005, the bodies of eight migrants were discovered near Brufut village and the Tanji Bird Reserve and reported to the Police. Many witnesses testified that they found blood coming from the mouths, noses, and ears of the migrants when their bodies were found. Further, their skulls were fractured, and they had facial injuries consistent with hacking.Acting under the instructions of their Commander, two police officers from Ghana Town Police Station tried to conceal the evidence and buried two of the bodies at the Tanji Bird Reserve without investigating the identities of the victims and their cause of death. At the hearing, the Commission obtained evidence that two Ghanaian migrants escaped and sought refuge at Ghana Town near Brufut but were turned over to the Police by local leaders. The two escapees have not been heard from since.The Commission learnt that the migrant who escaped reported the matter to the Ghanaian authorities. Following that report, Ghanaian authorities wrote to the Gambian authorities requesting a joint investigation. Despite accepting Ghana’s offer for a joint investigation, Gambian authorities set out to covertly conceal the evidence before the arrival of their Ghanaian counterparts. The Commission found that: “This was calculated and deliberate to mislead and conceal evidence so as to exculpate the culpability of Jammeh’s regime.”The brutal killing of the West African migrants caused national and international outcry, and a demand for justice and accountability for the victims. The Commission found that, not only did the State sanction the gruesome execution of victims, but it also went to great lengths to cover it up including destruction of evidence such as the police diaries of the Police Stations where the victims were taken to and detained prior to their gruesome execution.The Gambian authorities set up an investigation panel in 2005 however, the Commission found that the investigation panel was not interested in investigating the incident properly and bringing the killers to justice. Instead, it was a sham whose brief was to conceal evidence and refute Martin Kyere’s account that the victims were massacred following his return to Ghana. In his testimony before the Commission, Malamin Cessay confessed that he presided and directly participated in that sham and deceptive investigation, as well as fabricated the panel’s report that came from the investigation. Malamin Cessay admitted to the Commission that “it was all part of a collective and massive state-wide campaign aimed to cover-up and exonerate Yahya Jammeh’s regime from its responsibility for these brutal killings.”Based on the evidence received by the Commission, the Commission concluded that the national task force was created solely to hamper the ECOWAS/UN investigation by deliberately misleading them. That former President Yahya Jammeh was responsible for the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance,
and torture of the West African economic migrants. The Commission concludes that, in July 2005, President Jammeh gave the Junglers the direct orders to summarily execute the migrants. Further, the Commission holds Yahya Jammeh responsible for the subsequent mass cover-up designed solely to exonerate him for these heinous crimes.
Recommendations from the TRRC and the position of the Government:
The Commission, having considered the totality of the evidence, made the following recommendationsYahya Jammeh and his enablers and accomplices be prosecuted for their roles in the unlawful killings of the West African Migrants and the cover up of these killings. These enablers and accomplices include the following:Yahya JammehOusman SonkoSolo BojangMalick Jatta (Alfidie)Sanna ManjangKawsu Camara (Bombardier)Tumbul TambaBai LoweNuha BadjieLanding TambaAlieu JengOmar A. Jallow (Oya)Buboucarr JallowLamin SillahThe Government accepts this recommendation.Yankuba Sonko and Malamin Ceesay be banned from holding public office with the Gambia government for ten (10) years for their roles in covering up of the killings of the West African migrants.The Government partially accepts this recommendation and refers it for further investigation in light of potentially exculpatory evidencing submitted in favour of Yankuba Sonko.Establish an international joint investigation team (Joint Forensic Investigation Team) based in The Gambia, which will comprise forensic investigators and scientists from The Gambia, Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria, with the relevant skills, training and background to carry out the following tasks:To without delay identify the exact locations where the victims were buried, including the wells and graves mentioned by the witnesses that are located in both The Gambia and also in Cassamance, Senegal.Take all reasonable steps to ensure the security and full protection of all the sites where the remains were buried and yet to be exhumed for the purposes of protecting the human remains therein and from tampering with the evidence.Be given the mandate to exhume and conserve the remains of the victims that may be found in those wells or graves.Be given the full cooperation of the Gambian authorities, including full access to all documentary, testimonial and physical information and evidence in their possession that the Joint Forensic Investigation Team deems relevant to the inquiry;The Government of The Gambia to undertake without delay the steps, measures and arrangements necessary for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the Joint Forensic
Investigation Team, including recruiting impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise.
The Government of the Gambia to establish procedures for carrying out the activities of the Joint Forensic Investigation Team taking into account the Gambia’s relevant laws and judicial proceduresThe Government notes this recommendation but notes further the need for all investigative bodies to fall under the authority and direction of the central investigative unit to be created within the framework of the special structures to be put in place for the purposes of prosecutions. The Government shall set up a special investigations unit which shall be headed by a lead investigator with the requisite expertise in the investigation of crimes of a magnitude and severity such as those committed under the regime of former President Jammeh. The Government shall work with partners such as Justice Rapid Response and the International Commission on Missing Persons to set up an effective forensic investigation team with a mix of local and international expertise, within the framework of the special investigative mechanism.Provide training to the members of the security forces on the relevance of ECOWAS human rights instruments and their applicability.The Government accepts the recommendations of the Commission. The Government notes that this forms part of ongoing Security Sector Reform process however it will also work closely with the National Human Rights Commission and other international human rights bodies to ensure regular training for security forces on human rights.Put in place modern mechanisms, procedures and facilities for all security institutions to ensure that all vital data and information collected by the police in the course of investigations are properly maintained and preserved.The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Government notes that the preservation of investigation related information is crucial to the justice process and for accountability. The Government will work with the National Records Services as part of the ongoing work on electronic record management to institutionalise the modern forms of record keeping for the police as well training of security personnel on the accurate collection, documentation and preservation of data obtained in the course of investigations.
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