Edward Accepts Collective Liability, But Says He Personally Didn’t Torture Any Security Officer
The former Vice Chairman of Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), Edward Singhatey has accepted collective responsibility for participating in the torture of security officers including Captain Mamat Cham, RSM Jeng and Assistant Inspector General of Police, Ebrima Chongan, though he was quick to deny personally torturing these detainees in a night of September, 1994, at Mile II prisons following the military takeover in July.
Testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday, Edward confirmed the leading role he played in the organization of the coup, which brought a long-term democratic rule of President Dawda K. Jawara to an end.
Soon after the coup, dozens of senior security officers from the Gambia National Army and the Gambia Police Force were arrested, detained and tortured at the ‘bad condition’ of Mile II. Amongst them were; Captain Ebrima Kambi, Captain Mamat Cham, Captain Ben Wilson, Captain Sam Sarr, Captain Ndure Cham, Major Turo Jawneh, Lt. Sheriff Gomez, 2nd Lt. Alagie Kanteh, 2nd Lt. A. Kinteh, 2nd Lt. Yankuba Drammeh, Sergeant Faraba Sabally, Staff Sergeant Sambou, W02 Baboucarr Jeng, IGP Pa Salla Jagne, AIG Ebrima Chongan, ASP Jammeh Conta etc.
According to Edward, these arrests were done as temporary measures to stabilize issues at the time following some counter-coup allegations involving some of the arrestees. However, he admitted that the detention of others exceeded the limited after two years in prisons. Edward also agreed that Mile II’s condition was inhumane but says that was the only means available to detain their suspects at the time.
“The conditions were not good but that was all we had. I do accept it was wrong,” he told the commission.
Responding to a suggestion of the illegality of the detention of the security officers, Edward did not agree since junta’s Decree which was introduced following the suspension of 1970 Constitution, could legalize their conduct. “If the decree legalizes it, definitely it cannot be unlawful. I do agree it was a bad condition but as I said, that was the only infrastructure we had. I accept that the condition was very bad.”
He also disputed that some officers shouldn’t have been part of the arrest and detention – indicating that the first junta Chairman Sana B. Sabally took the decision to detain others without any consultation with the Council. However, he accepts responsibility as a collective.
“There were a number of detentions that occurred without prior consultations. Now having said that, I fully own up everything especially with regards to the detainees. There are some people who should not have been there to begin with. Whatever happened with regards to their detentions and conditions were wrong. I accept my role and I deeply apologize for that,” he told the commission.
Several witnesses including RSM Jeng, Captain Mamat Cham and AIG Ebrima Chongan have all implicated Edward as being directly responsible for their tortures. According to them, council members including Edward and other junior soldiers made a late night visit repeatedly to conduct these operations. However, Edward categorically denied any direct responsibility. He said their mission was to interrogate the officers about who they might have been working with in staging a counter-coup. Edward admitted that it was not ideal for them to go late night at Mile II but justified that the situation itself was abnormal at the time.
“We were not in normal times. It was not normal but the times themselves were not normal. Hardly was anything normal. I agree that time was odd, it was after working hours and that should not have happened.”
According to him, the AFPRC made a decision to meet those who were accused of plotting a coup and to find out who their collaborators were. “When we arrived, as far as I can recall, Mamat Cham was dragged out of the cell and he was hit in the face with a rifle.” But he couldn’t remember who hit him.
Earlier, Captain Mamat Cham told the commission that Edward was yelling as they came into their cells asking, ‘where is Captain Mamat Cham, where is Captain Mamat Cham?’ AIG Ebrima Chongan who was also detained corroborated Cham’s statement in his TRRC testimony. RSM Jeng also indicated the same thing. But Edward disputed uttering such a statement, saying he would have own-up to it if he had said it.
“Of course they were detained, their careers were ruined, and some of them suffered subsequently and a lot still have that grudge,” implying that such testimonies could be born out of bias.
“I know we were searching for these specific officers but that is why we were with prison officers who knows where they were. Somebody hit him very hard with AK47 and he collapsed,” talking about the current army commander, Mamat Cham.
It was Cham’s testimony that Edward stroke him with the butt of AK47 on his face and blood started oozing out. This allegation was also corroborated by RSM Jeng. But Edwards disputed. “I did not hit. I can assure you I didn’t hit him” Edward responded to lead Counsel Essa M. Faal.
Edward also denied the testimonies of being intoxicated while torturing the detainees. “Their statements are inaccurate.”
However he agreed that Cham was beaten by men under the command of the council. He admitted that the torture that was done under junta’s command amounted to a crime of assault, torture and unlawful. “I agree it was wrong. It was not supposed to have happened.”
He couldn’t recall if Cham was subjected to mock-execution although he wouldn’t be surprised if it had happened, saying it could have been possible. He confirmed that Chongan faced similar fate. “It was unlawful, it was a crime.”
Testifying on torture allegation meted out on RSM Jeng, he believes he too was beaten. Jeng confirmed that he was tortured despite his pains in the neck he suffered from an accident before the July 22nd take-over.
“Just because I deny hitting him, doesn’t mean I am reneging on my responsibility. We took the decision to go, whatever happened there, whether I did it directly or indirectly, as a council member I am responsible. On that day, whether I touched him or not by virtue of my presence when the decision was being taken and my presence at Mile II, of course, I admit to liability to that”
Offering his apology to his victims, Edward indicated that: “I would like to apologize to RSM Jeng, AIG Chongan and Mamat Cham. I know they may have suffered, and they were hurt, badly hurt. And even the others that were not even touched, just the mere fact that there was a visit at night and people were dragged out of their cells and beaten is enough to psychologically traumatize others that were not touched because they might believe that they were next. My participation is inexcusable and I apologized.
Regarding the prolonged detention of detainees, Edward said those who were not security threat were released. “But even for one night detention is unjustifiable.”
Edward will continue with his testimony on Thursday when he is expected to go deep into the circumstances of November 11th 1994 incident which witnessed the extra-judicial killings of at least 11 soldiers including Captain Basiru Barrow. They were accused of plotting to overthrow the junta transitional government.