|During her watch as Gambia's Chief Prosecutor thousands|
were kidnapped, raped, and tortured in Gambia.
(She is now prosecuting Burma of Muslim genocide, WTF.)
Two witnesses (themselves the victims of kidnap & torture during her watch as Gambia's Chief Prosecutor) have already publicly challenged her before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Will the Commission call the prosecutor to answer the charges? On the day of the inauguration of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in The Gambia, on 15 October 2018, Fatou Bensouda's speech seemed clear.
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), a Gambian national, first underlined how the work of this Commission – charged with shedding light on the military dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh, between July 1994 and January 2017, and the serious human rights violations committed under this regime – will be "so critical to the future of this country and to the strengthening of the rule of law on which this future can be secured."
She stressed that this justice must be "not only in words but through real actions". "As I often say, protecting citizenry from the scourge of war and conflict through the vector of the law demonstrates political leadership and not weakness," she added.
"In order for the country to move forwards to greater heights, it must reckon with its past. It must engage in a good faith effort to uncover past wrongs. It must identify and hold those accountable, provide the answers and indeed the recognition and justice that victims and affected communities so deeply earned for and desired." And she concluded firmly: "Accountability begins at home.”
However, many in the audience were indisposed, even shocked by the presence of the guest of honour. They had in mind the Gambian past of the prosecutor, who has since become a celebrity on the international judicial scene.
For the woman who, for fifteen years, as Deputy Prosecutor and then Prosecutor of the ICC, has been supposed to embody a certain moral righteousness and the overriding concern of the victims, has once faithfully served and defended, for years and in the highest judicial offices, the Jammeh dictatorship which is now exposed by the Truth Commission.
SIX YEARS OF LOYALTY TO JAMMEH, TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF SILENCE
Fatou Bensouda became a prosecutor in Banjul, the Gambian capital, in February 1994, five months before the coup d'état that brought young soldiers to power, headed by Yahya Jammeh. She was 33 years old.
|Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh the rapist & torturer.|
Thus, during the first six years of the dictatorship, Fatou Bensouda enjoyed a meteoric and remarkable career to reach the highest national judicial and political positions in the field of justice, under a regime in which the judicial system was marked by multiple and serious violations of the law, the systematic practice of torture, the fabrication of evidence, illegal detentions, enforced disappearances and deaths in custody.
In January 2016, under pressure from journalist Tim Sebastian to denounce human rights violations in The Gambia, during television show "Conflict Zone" on Deutsche Welle, she replied:
“I am not going to make statements on political issues that are happening in countries.”
It is this past and silence that explain why on October 15 last year many Gambians found it particularly inappropriate that she be invited to inaugurate the TRRC. And it is this part of the truth that began to emerge from the public hearings opened on January 7, 2019, before the TRRC in Banjul.
To date, two victims have directly compromised Fatou Bensouda when she was a young state prosecutor and deputy director of prosecutions. Here are their testimonies.
On 12 October 1995, at 4 a.m., four soldiers forcibly entered the home of Batch Samba Jallow, a primary school headmaster who had recently arrived in Banjul from the province. Six other members of the security forces surrounded the house. Daba Marenah, one of the heads of the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), told Jallow that he would understand the reasons for his arrest once at NIA headquarters.
Once there, Jallow had to undress before sitting in a wooden chair. "I saw them bring two electrical chords. They connected each foot to sockets," he said, on June 23rd, in this house in Banjul where his life was turned upside down almost 24 years ago.
With his limbs tied together, he received electric shocks to his feet (his two small toes no longer have nails today) and then to his ears, nose and genitals. The interrogation session, dotted with torture, lasted until 11 p.m. Another NIA member, Baba Saho, hit him on the cheekbone with the butt of his pistol. Taken to another room, one of his fingers was crushed. "Beating and insults continue throughout," he said.
Jallow was exhausted. "Give us the names we want or we continue. If you die, it’s no problem," his torturers told him. The floor was strewn with broken glass to aggravate injuries and pain. "All my body was cut and bruised," he said. He was hit on the head with a gallon of ice water. He fainted. "Sometimes I would hear something ; sometimes nothing."
He was also covered with a plastic bag before being plunged into a bucket of water. "I didn’t know if I was alive or dead. But what came next is the worst. I wanted to go to the restroom. I found a cup smelling urine. They asked me to drink my urine or I die."
They pinched his nose, opened his mouth and made him drink his urine by force. Almost twenty-four years have passed, but to this memory, the former prisoner broke and humbly plunged his face into his hands.
Then the torturers came back with a knife. "They put me on the floor, naked. They said it was time to die. They cut my body from the bottom of my buttocks down the leg. Five days went by, without food. "My head was hitting like nothing you can understand."
It is not unusual for a moment of humanity to arise in these places of nightmare. For Jallow, this gesture would come from a guard, who had been a schoolboy in one of the five establishments that Jallow had run, and who would discreetly give him two tablets of paracetamol. They were life-saving, he said.
Jallow was taken in a dump truck to the Kotu police station. Then he was transferred by NIA agents to the Fajara barracks. There, he met about sixty inmates. Eighteen prisoners had to share a basin of food and a gallon of water. "It's a scramble," said Jallow.
It was 32 days before they were brought before a judge. During this whole period, they were not allowed to wash. He discovered that the small branches of an orange tree can act as a toothbrush. "We were so dirty that vultures came to feed on you. Soldiers had to come and kill them," he said.
Jallow was accused of participating in a demonstration that took place on his way to an appointment with the charity Catholic Relief Services. But he remembers being approached a few months earlier to run for the junta party in his Makumbaya region, some 260 kilometres from Banjul. He had declined, while confiding to his solicitors his concern about the behaviour of the military. "So I was not in their good books," he said.
The Nigerian judge who welcomed the prisoners to court was so shocked by their appearance that he ordered them to go wash before he proceeded with the case. Back at the barracks, the detainees met four International Red Cross delegates who interviewed them and facilitated access to a shower. "It was a bad experience," said Jallow, "the dirt had already cracked the skin, it was very painful."
According to a newspaper of the time, which Jallow has carefully kept, there were 25 of them being referred for sedition in this case. But for six of them – including Jallow, appointed as first accused – the crime of sedition was abandoned in favour of the more serious crime of treason.
It was Fatou Bensouda who had asked for this new charge. For this handful of men, this meant that they were now facing life imprisonment or the death penalty. And that meant that their case must be transferred to the Supreme Court. This cannot be forgotten.
|Fatou Bendousa's presence at the Gambia's Truth Commission was bitterly resented by her former victims.|
The judge made me to ask these questions to her. She very well knew that we needed to have one. Her answer was: ‘You are charged with treason, you don’t have that time’. She was not cooperative, not helpful. She could do the right thing. We were dumped in this corrugated and cement store, with no food, no water, no medication. And she wouldn’t say anything.”
According to the Daily Observer's hearing report, dated 12 December 1995, Jallow, who was only told about the charges against him the day before, did complain to the court that he didn’t have access to their lawyer. Prosecutor Bensouda responded by referring the blame to the "relevant authorities". In a written response to Justice Info on July 9, Fatou Bensouda “categorically denies” the fact “that she expressed no concern about the lack of access to lawyers”.
Thirteen months passed, during which time the detention was extended without new evidence to be shown. "She did not produce any evidence. She said she would bring it. Up to this day. There was none. They were trying to recruit members of the NIA to be witnesses," said Jallow.
In November 1996, the elections so feared by the putschists had passed and a group of soldiers presented themselves at the barracks. "You have been discharged, you are free to go, on condition," they told the prisoners. These conditions were five, quite redundant, Jallow recalls: not to be involved in politics, not to meet more than three people on the street, not to participate in political meetings, not to support anyone with responsibility in a political party, not to belong to a political party.
Jallow signed. He was taken home. For two weeks, two agents were watching his house. He packed his bags and went back to the province. By the end of the year, he had left the territory and taken refuge in Senegal. In September 1999, he flew to the United States as part of the American resettlement program. He would only return to Gambia after the dictator's fall in January 2017.
"She was afraid of the regime," now said 68-year-old Batch Samba Jallow, referring to Fatou Bensouda. "She could have resigned. Many resigned, they were not willing to be part of the regime. But she was expecting something bigger. To be a minister," he alleged. "She is not the person who can help people in political need. The day of the launch of the TRRC opened, when she came, we were very angry.”
- “Should she, in your opinion, be called to testify?
Sainey Faye's small shop, lost in the maze of the Serrekunda market, at the beginning of a narrow, dark, covered aisle, offers a wide range of soaps, traditional care products and honey. A young woman is breastfeeding on a small bench on the side inside this small business of barely 5 square metres.
With wide shoulders and muscular arms, Sainey Faye has a strong physique and a face with harmonious features, which give an equal impression of strength. His upper eyelids, whose swelling gives the feeling of half closing his eyes, give his look an attractive depth that is reinforced by a generous smile.
If Batch Samba Jallow, although simple and modest in appearance, has the confidence and eloquence of a teacher, Sainey Faye has the restraint and temporary shyness of a small trader. Faye was arrested on the same day, October 12, 1995, when he went to the United States Embassy to pick up a visa form.
On the main street, he found himself face-to-face with many civilians under arrest. And here he was, in turn, embarked. When the men who arrested him asked him to move away from the American embassy to a more discreet place, he refused and physically opposed it. His leg was broken and he was taken to the Kairaba police station at the so-called "Traffic Lights" junction.
Then he was transferred to NIA headquarters in Banjul. NIA's senior officer Marenah told him that his market stall (different from today's) was the place for seditious meetings. He was undressed, interrogated, beaten, and received electric shocks all over his body, including his genitals. "Before you kill us, we will kill you first," his torturers told him.
The next day, he was sent to the Fajara barracks, where he was subjected to further threats of execution. It was there, upon hearing from the BBC, that he learned that his group was accused of aiding in a plan to overthrow the government. "All of us were all civilians. No weapons. No documents," he said.
He talked about a month without showers, medicines and clean clothes, and with minimal food. It took eight months before he got a lawyer. The evidence of the alleged conspiracy brought to the hearing by prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, he explained, consisted of the photo of former President Dawda Jawara (overthrown in 1994 by Jammeh), as well as another leaflet featuring the faces of junta leaders with hostile comments.
That was all. His lawyer asked if these documents were found on his client and if it was a crime to have a photograph of the former president. The prosecutor replied that it was not. But when the lawyer asked for bail, she opposed it and invoked a security threat.
At the hearing, "one of us was taken as an example of torture. Everybody could see the marks, nobody could deny," remembers Sainey Faye. At the end of the second hearing, the judge ordered the release on bail. But the hope was short-lived. An hour later, the decision was reviewed and Faye returned to the prison barracks. The prosecutor had invoked a new decree authorizing a 90-day detention for security reasons.
The first Nigerian judge was replaced by a new judge, also a Nigerian. "The new judge told Fatou Bensouda to put her house in order," said Faye. Then "the judge said she couldn’t stay in this case. She withdrew." The 90-day detention was renewed twice. The NIA was trying to convince some members of the group to testify against others in exchange for "gifts," said Faye. Then, after thirteen months, they were told that they were pardoned, under the conditions described by Jallow.
In her response to Justice Info, Fatou Bensouda also denies being aware of the torture endured by the two witnesses. She further claims that it was her actions that led to the charges being dropped.
When on January 28 this year Batch Samba Jallow testified publicly before the TRRC and implicated Fatou Bensouda, the Commission's lead counsel, Essa Faal, seemed caught off guard and embarrassed.
Essa Faal is the incisive, impeccably prepared and willingly implacable conductor of the TRRC public hearings that have, since January, made the Truth Commission in The Gambia a national event to which the public is riveted.
He is a key contributor to the success of this justice process and the credibility of its investigations. He is also a former ephemeral member of the State Prosecutor's Office of The Gambia in 1994. And more importantly he is a former colleague of Fatou Bensouda at the International Criminal Court.
At the hearing, the dialogue between the victim and the lead counsel seemed to end in disagreement about the conclusions to be drawn from Jallow's experience.
- Ah, she was the prosecutor.
- Ah... You would agree that Mrs Fatou Bensouda, if she was the prosecutor at all, would have come at the tail end of things, at the prosecution stage of things and therefore would not have participated in anything that happened before your prosecution. Correct?
It did not take much longer for the suspicions to arise that preferential treatment or protection may be given to Fatou Bensouda the former personal legal adviser and minister of Justice of Gambian Dictator Yahya Jammeh.
In his Spartan office at the Commission's headquarters, Essa Faal spoke with conviction about the TRRC's mission. "Forgiveness is important. It is a more assured way to get to the truth," he explained.
Faal was just as easily open to self-criticism. "All of us contributed. Our silence contributed. Especially the intellectuals. We’ve seen the bad laws. If we complained it was in our house. Nobody would say anything and that encouraged the dictator. He kept pushing the envelope," he said.
When asked about the allegations against his former boss at the ICC, Essa Faal answered without hesitation: "This is an unfortunate situation. The person [the witness] didn’t really understand. They say things they don’t understand. To accuse Fatou Bensouda of being responsible for everything that they went through would be a bit unfair.”
When questioned on the BBC on 30 June, Gambia’s Justice Minister Abubacarr Marie Tambadou followed the same line as Essa Faal. Tambadou is another crucial actor in the justice process in The Gambia. He was the one who imposed Faal on his position. It is he who gives muscle to the TRRC whenever it needs it, strengthening the Commission's credibility. His support for the process is unfailing.
But he also worked at the State Prosecutor's Office in the late 1990s, before moving to the private sector and distinguishing himself in the defence of human rights. And he also worked at the ICTR at the same time as Fatou Bensouda, then under Hassan Jallow, former ICTR Prosecutor General (and superior of Bensouda) and now President of the country’s Supreme Court.
When asked whether or not Fatou Bensouda should be called to testify before the TRRC, Tambadou replied: "That will be a matter for TRRC [to decide]. But having said that, as a keen follower of the TRRC, I know that the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has not been mentioned in a very credible manner. We have to remember that she was only a prosecutor at the level of the state law office and therefore she came at the tail end of any legal process.”
Bensouda wrote to Justice Info that she “would have no misgivings whatsoever” to appear before the TRRC, that she “has nothing to hide and her conscience is clear.” But she leaves open the fact that her current position at the ICC may or may not prevent her from appearing.
"SHE MUST SPEAK"
Sainey Faye, now 65 years old, never lost the limp inherited from his abuse in 1995. And he has no hesitation on whether Fatou Bensouda's responsibilities during the period when she served the dictatorship should be discussed publicly.
"We were told that she was just securing her position, that she had to do it. But for us, she wasn’t good. We thought she was hard on us," he said. "She should come. She is a lawyer. The way people were accused, the lack of evidence, she should shed light. Let her talk about our case, how she sees it and how we were treated, unlawfully.
- Do you wish her to express regrets?
(Blogger's Note: A person who at the instigation of a public servant or employee orders, instigates or induces the use of torture, directly commits it or is an accomplice thereto. The fact of having acted under orders of a superior shall not provide exemption from the corresponding criminal liability. Therefore Fatou Bendousa is criminally liable for the kidnap and torture of Samba Jallow, Sainey Faye, and countless others, prosecuted illegally by her for fabricated crimes, in Gambia.)
A Gambian pageant winner has accused the country’s former president of rape as an investigation claims Yahya Jammeh systematically sexually abused young women. Jammeh, who reluctantly stepped down in 2017 after 22 years of rule, presented himself as a deeply religious figure and an advocate of girls’ rights and declared his small west African nation an Islamic republic.
But Toufah Jallow claims he raped her as a teenager at a religious event on the eve of Ramadan. Two other women also accused Jammeh of rape and sexual assault in interviews with Human Rights Watch and Trial International, and eight former Gambian officials said they had direct knowledge of the events. Jallow is the only one disclosing her real name.
The former winner of the prestigious Miss July 22nd beauty and scholarship pageant said she wanted to “start the conversation about something that is destroying the fabric of society” – girls carrying the burden of sexual abuse.
“I felt like if I can do that with the president of the country, it becomes somewhat easier for someone who’s dealing with a CEO, with a boss, with a schoolteacher or with an uncle, because the highest level is being exposed,” she told the Guardian.
For years Jallow had watched the prestigious July 22nd pageant – named for the date Jammeh seized power – on television. When she was crowned winner in 2014, she thought a scholarship would soon follow.
Instead, she said, Jimbee Jammeh, the president’s cousin and a State House protocol officer, began calling her to ask about a drama project she had to submit after winning the pageant. Soon she found herself being taken to Jammeh’s private residence.
“Fula girl,” he greeted her, using traditional teasing between their ethnic groups, Jallow recalled. He was wearing a shirt and trousers, not his usual bulky robes. He gave her a fatherly hug and switched on the Animal Planet channel.
“He was watching this lion hunt his prey, talking about it,” she said. “He said his uncles were hunters and that hunters actually just mimic what lions do, and they have to take their time.” He talked until midnight, she said, going through her proposal and reminiscing about his childhood. Then she left.
After several more meetings, Jammeh arranged for Jallow’s mother’s house to get a water supply, and he sent gifts of furniture and offered Jallow a job like Jimbee’s. Then one night at dinner, she said, he allegedly told her: “I want to marry you, you know. When can I send people to go see your parents?”
She said no, blocked Jimbee’s number and decided to have nothing more to do with Jammeh. But the night before Ramadan, Jimbee got through on a private number and told her to come to a Qur’anic recitation ceremony at State House along with previous pageant winners. She felt unable to decline. Jimbee allegedly engineered it so that they were in a room alone and then left. Jammeh walked in.
“This time it wasn’t the fatherly ‘hey Fula girl’. His eyes were so red and he was so angry,” she claimed. “He said to me: ‘Who do you think you are?’ His ego was bruised, seriously.” Shouting that he could get any woman he wanted, he allegedly dragged her into the next room. “He said to me: ‘This could have gone way, way, much better if you had just gone along. But it seems like this is how you want it,’” she claimed.
“The echo of the reading of the Qur’an outside was loud; I could hear every word of it when I was in that room. He pushed me so I was kneeling on the floor. And he pulled his genitals out and rubbed it on my face, saying things like ‘let’s see if you’re a virgin’, and I was screaming,” she alleged.
“He said ‘it’s not going to kill you’. Then he took [a syringe] from his pocket and injected me right here,” she claimed, pulling up her sleeve to show a scar. After that, Jallow said, she could not hear her own screams. She claimed he pulled off her leggings and underwear and anally raped her. She alleges she passed out, and when she woke up at 2 am he was sitting on the couch watching her. He told her: “Get out.”
Jallow decided she had to escape. She put on a niqab and went to the market where she gave the men following her the slip, she said. She crossed the Gambia River in a fisherman’s boat, begged a truck driver to smuggle her across the Senegalese border and slept in a Dakar bus station until she could get help, then sought asylum in Canada.
|Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh the rapist & torturer is a very good friend of Obama.|
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