TRRC – “I Have Tortured People…”, NIA Operative Omar Cham Admits
The Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission’s (TRRC) Lead Counsel, Essa Faal has on Tuesday continued to examine Gambia’s intelligence operative Omar Cham. As a member of the defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Omar Cham was adversely mentioned by witnesses who testified before the TRRC. They said Omar was involved in right violations while he was serving the NIA.
On his first day Omar Cham told the TRRC that the National Intelligence Agency and the Ministry of Justice, under former President Yahya Jammeh’s regime, collided to fabricate evidence against people. On Tuesday, his second day of testimony before the TRRC, Omar Cham admitted to have tortured Nfamara Nasso and other people. Yet he has denied ever laying a hand one Ebou Khan.
“The fact is Mr. Witness, you are a serial torturer?” asked Counsel Taal. The witness responded in the negative.
“Do you regret the torture at the NIA?” “Yes I regretted it. I am therefore appealing for forgiveness from all my victims, including Sainabou Keita” Omar Cham replied.
Counsel Faal told Omar Cham that clearly, he had committed offences. He warned him to stop lying under oath at the expense of being prosecuted and missing any qualification for a potential amnesty. Omar Cham conceded to Counsel Faal’s warning as he proceeded with testifying on his involvement in investigating the case of a fuel coupons’ fraud during Yahya Jammeh’s regime. The said fuel coupons issue led to Ebou Khan being investigated and tortured at the NIA.
Omar Cham then told the Commission that currently at The Gambia Police force, one Pa Sanyang who then connived with Ebou Khan to sell the fraudulent fuel coupons is still an agent. Cham conceded with counsel Faal that agent Pa Sanyang should have been arrested, prosecuted and taken to jail for fraud.
“Where is Pa Sanyang?” asked Essa Faal. “Until December, 2019 he was with the Police. Sanyang is still serving the Police with the rank of Inspector” Omar Cham replied.
“This could only had happened because he was protected?” Essa Faal asked. “Yes!” the witness replied.
When Lead Counsel Essa Faal, asked the witness whether it was not a matter of procedure for those interested to join the police to be vetted by the NIA, the intelligence operative responded in the positive.
As he admitted to have participated in the investigation of Pa Sanyang and Ebou Khan, about the fraudulent coupons, Omar denied to have beaten Ebou Khan with a stick.
On the issue of Rudi Gazi and Co who were apprehended with hard drug in Bonto, Omar Cham admitted that they were tortured.
Mr. Cham said the NIA personnel knew that the magnitude of the drug that entered the country would not have been possible without the knowledge of the top brass security apparatus.
On whether former NDEA Director Ebrima Bun Sanneh and co were tortured, Cham said there is a likelihood of them to be tortured. Cham said he did not see them limping or bleeding.
On what he knew as an intelligence operative in relation to the use of poisoning to eliminate perceived enemies of Yahya Jammeh, Omar Cham said that one Bamba alleged to him that he was poisoned by state security agents while Tumbul Tamba and Musa Jammeh, both former Jammeh hench men, were said to have been poisoned on instructions given by Yahya Jammeh.
About the disappearance of persons detained at the defunct NIA, Omar Cham said the Gambia government lied when it said that Daba Marena, Ebou Lowe and Alpha Bah escaped when en route to Janjanbureh Prisons.
Omar Cham also spoke to the TRRC about Mr. Haruna Jammeh, a relative of Yahya Jammeh who disappeared after being detained at the NIA. Haruna was picked by Ousman Tamba. “Jalamang, a brother to former President Yahya Jammeh, confessed to me that he picked Haruna up” Omar Cham said.
On the NIA’s involvement in elections, Omar Cham said the government of Yahya Jammeh wanted the NIA to help rig the in 2016 presidential election after Jammeh alleged that his supporters in the Upper river region (URR) were denied voting. As a result, the NIA ordered that voters card in that area be brought to its office.
The chairman of the TRRC, Dr. Lamin J. Sise, asked Omar Cham to tell the commission the various methods of torture used by the NIA. The witness replied that apart from electrocutions, there is monkey dancing, the use hand cuffs, leg shackles, waterboarding and also the silence technique.
“Which one did you use personally on Victims?” Chairman Sise quizzed. “I used the silence techniques, monkey dance, and my bare hands” Omar Cham replied.
The Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC, Adelaide Sosseh, told Omar Cham that his lack of composure before the Commission is a proof that he is a temperamental person. Which, according to her, could be very much detrimental to someone being investigated. In response, Omar Cham said that’s his “nature”.
Cham rubbished Sillah-Ba Samateh’s allegations before the TRRC that babies were taken to the NIA for sacrifice.
TRRC Commissioner Samba urged the witness to be more remorseful in asking for forgiveness to his victims.
Omar Cham said he regrets to have beaten people. He also said he accepts to bear responsibility for the torture meted on detainees by his junior officers.