Torture, Bribery, Abuse and Killing: David Colley’s Rigid Path to Confessions
David Colley, former director general of Gambia Prisons Service has been accused by his subordinates, prisoners and relatives of prisoners of staging torture, taking bribes, abusing his power and complicit in the killing of Baba Kajally Jobe during his leadership.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has wrapped up its special institutional hearing on the conditions of the Gambia Prisons Service. It coincides with the 100 years since the establishment of the prisons during the colonial era in 1920.
David’s testimony has not been smooth. He denied repeatedly of any wrongdoing or having knowledge of any unlawful acts that were put to him for two separate days. Today’s hearing was different in terms of coherent nature of testimony as well as deciding to accept responsibilities of certain conducts which he initially denied.
On Tuesday, he finally confessed to having ordered the prison officers to bring out some prisoners who were suspected in a mobile case at the Mile II prison.
Two prisoners, Soriba Conde and Lamin Jah said they were taken behind David Colley’s office and were tortured and it was up to the knowledge of the ex-prisons’ director. Ebrima Jammeh alias ‘chief torturer’ has also accepted taking part in the torture with the recruits on the orders of David. Jammeh was the head of the training school at the time.
“They were behind my office…They must confess so that we can get what we wanted…I was hearing them shouting and crying,” Colley said while admitting that the prisoners were beaten.
He initially insisted that though he could hear the cries of the prisoners, he couldn’t tell if they were being beaten.
He justified that it was lawful as per the Prisons Act to extract evidence from the suspects by subjecting prisoners to 12 lashes.
“What the law permits is what they acted on.”
In the Prisons Act, crowd beating of prisoners is unlawful as no one prisoner should be beaten to the hearing of the other. But David insinuated that they were all being investigated on the same issue – though he came to accept that it was unlawful.
When the lead counsel puts to him if he accepted responsibility of the torture against the prisoners, he agreed.
“I agree because I am the commanding officer.”
Detaining officers in confinement
Section 28 of the Prisons Act states that prison officers should be detained at any prison quarters, guard rooms or at the remand wing where the suspects on trial are held. However, a prison officer Anabi was held at the security wing confinement for months.
But David said: “where to keep the prisoners is at my discretion especially if I know they could tamper with investigations including in a one-man cell. That’s not in the law but it’s my discretion. I can use my discretion.
“I kept him in a one-man cell so that he cannot tamper with my investigations. Even if I had gone against the law, I already said I had no place to keep him.”
He disagreed that he did it to punish Anabi.
David’s bribery taking allegations
Several witnesses have alleged to have extended bribes to David Colley and some prison officers in order to take good care of their relatives in jail. He was confronted with the evidence from Ebou Khan who offered him fuel to refill his car anytime he needed just to ensure the comfort of his friend in prisons Musa Suso.
In reaction, David said the fuel is meant for the movement of prisoners and refused to consider it a bribe.
Baba Jobe’s wife also told the commission that the family gave television sets and a generator to David in order to ensure that her husband would be given good care in Mile II. He admitted that Baba’s brother, Ebrima Jobe gave him televisions. But he wouldn’t consider this one as well as a bribe.
“It was for the comfort of the prison. It’s not a bribe. It’s lawful to me because that will make the prisoners feel comfortable,” he said responding to the television bribery allegation.
“When I have constraints and they come to my aid, it’s normal. Where somebody offers for me to run the administration smoothly, I will accept it.”
Admitting to illegal detention
David has been inconsistent on who actually was in control of the prisons. He repeatedly insisted to state that he was in charge of Mile II prisons. However, he would later admit that the security wing was controlled by military personnel and NIA who would bring detainees without due procedures.
“They would bring prisoners and I would see it and that’s how I would know it. I could not tell what kind of offence they did. When they brought such people in my absence, prison officers would just admit them.
“They would bring them usually at night when I would be at home. Even if they would bring them during the day time, they would take them to the main yard.
“I have said it from the beginning that I do not have control over them. I know what the law says but I have no powers. I know the law but it’s as if my hands were tied.”
Colley told the TRRC that he once talked to the then Interior Minister Ousman Sonko about what was happening but was told to accept it.
“He [Minister] would tell me just accept it the way you see them. It was not the normal procedure but what do you expect I could do.”
But he finally accepted to be a participant in the unlawful detention of people by admitting them at Mile II without due process.
“Whenever they brought prisoners, we received them. We must work that way because they’d be well-armed when bringing the prisoners. If you want to ask them too much, the consequence you may receive is what you asked for.”
He also admitted ordering his men at the parade to accept the military officers or NIA personnel whenever they bring detainees even without due process for their own safety.
killing of Baba Jobe
The former orderly of David Colley Lamin Sanneh has implicated him for being complicit in the brutal killing of Baba Jobe at the hospital.
In a statement read by the lead counsel Essa Faal, Sanneh expressed surprise as to why he as an orderly would be sent to serve as a guard to Jobe, when special guards were already with him. More suspicion was raised when David was directly involved in sending Sanneh for the guard mission. He admitted that in a normal situation, shift of duty was entirely the responsibility of junior officers who prepare the shift roasters.
David agreed that he sent Lamin Sanneh to the hospital. “I did that because I trusted him. What I asked him to do was to go and guard because I trusted him.
In the same statement, Sanneh said while at the hospital, he again received a telephone call from David asking him to step aside and give a chance to some people who were coming to see Baba Jobe in the hospital.
But in reacting, David insisted that he didn’t know anything about any plan for killing Baba Jobe.
“The purpose was for him to guard. I never asked him to step aside.”
He refused to take any responsibility in the killing of Baba Jobe.
Last year, a military officer Omar Jallow alias Oya who is a member of jungulars confessed that he was among killers strangulated Baba Jobe in his sick bed.