Germany arrests 7 ex-soldiers over atrocities in Gambia

By Florian Flade, WDR.

The German Federal Prosecutor General is investigating several asylum seekers from Gambia. They are said to have been involved in torture, ill-treatment and murder in their home country as military personnel.

According to information from WDR, NDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung (SZ) together with officials of the Baden-Württemberg State Criminal Office (LKA), the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) searched the homes of seven Gambian nationals on Wednesday. The men are suspected of having been involved in the torture, ill-treatment and murder of opposition figures for the regime of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh.

The Federal Prosecutor General is therefore investigating on suspicion of crimes against humanity. A spokesman for the Karlsruhe authority declined to comment on the exact background to the investigation.

 Suspects are asylum seekers from Gambia

According to research by WDR, NDR and SZ, the seven suspects are asylum seekers from Gambia, who are said to have stated in asylum hearings at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) that they were involved in the mistreatment of prisoners in prisons in the West African state as members of a notorious unit of the Gambian military. With the searches, investigators hope to find evidence for these allegations – dubbed “self-incrimination.”

After a military coup in 1994, Yahya Jammeh was the president of Gambia from 1996 until his removal in January 2017. He is blamed for numerous human rights violations and the persecution of dissidents, homosexuals and journalists.

Brutal action after coup attempt

In December 2014, a coup d’état allegedly organized by the former head of the presidential guard, Lamin Sanneh, along with other exiled Gambians failed. Among the coup plotters were several people living in the United States, who were finally arrested by the US Federal Police FBI in early 2015 and later sentenced to prison and fines for the coup attempt.

In Gambia, Jammeh’s regime is said to have used brutal force against those involved and backers after the failed coup. Several opposition activists were found dead in the weeks and months that followed.

Participation still unclear

It is unclear whether the suspects now persecuted in Germany were also involved in the brutal actions against the coup plotters. In Germany, the Attorney General also pursues crimes committed abroad in accordance with the principle of international law, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

At the BKA in Meckenheim, a separate unit, State Protection 25, is responsible for such investigations. In recent years, investigators have been able to achieve several successes. For example, two former members of the Syrian military intelligence service were indicted for the first time. Since April, the two men have had to answer to the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz for torture and ill-treatment in the prisons of the Assad regime.

 Source: Culled from Tagesschau , Deutschland

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