By Mustapha K Darboe
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has expressed concern over Gambia’s ‘evident’ lack of steps to protect “archives of the former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and other on-site evidence, which may impede the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission in carrying out its mandate”.
Top officials of the Gambia Government led by Solicitor General, Cherno Marenah, has appeared before the UN rights watchdog about a month ago to review the country’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Several issues were raised with regards to the protection of human rights in Gambia by both UN and civil society organizations such as Victim Centre, Article 19 and West Africa Media Foundation.
And in its concluding observation contain in a document seen by Kerr Fatou, the rights watchdogs said they are concern by the “…apparent lack of steps taken by the State party (Gambia) to fully secure the archives of the former National Intelligence Agency and other on-site evidence, which may impede the Commission in carrying out its mandate”.
There have been several allegations of destruction of evidence at the NIA, now State Intelligence Services.
The institution’s former lawyer Bubacarr Badgie has petitioned the president in a letter last year accusing the NIA of plastering buildings and painting blood spatters on the wall.
Badgie was later arrested by police but released later and his claims were later rubbished by the NIA. However, it came to light about two weeks ago that Badgie’s claims of renovations at the NIA is true.
During a visit of High Court judge Kumba Sillah Camara and lawyers in the trial of NIA 8 who are being tried for the killing of Solo Sandeng, journalists have discovered the institution’s clinic has been raze down and several renovations were taking place.
“Secure all relevant documents and evidence of all relevant State organs, including the archives of the former National Intelligence Agency and other on-site evidence,” UN advised Gambia government.
“Put in place vetting procedures in the army and the law enforcement and intelligence sectors and remove all those who have been involved in serious human rights violations from their positions.
“Reports of immunity enjoyed by some high-level officials, including the former Director of Mile Two Prison, who have been accused of human rights violations; Officials in the army and the law enforcement and intelligence sectors, who are accused of human rights violations during the authoritarian regime, have reportedly remained in their positions owing to the absence of vetting procedures.”
The rights watchdogs have also asked Gambia government to ensure that all allegations of human rights violations and abuses are promptly, independently and thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the offences.
The UN also urged the repeal of all provisions that allow blanket impunity, including the Indemnity Act of 2001; and ensure that all perpetrators are held accountable without exception, including the highest official.