By Tabora Bojang
The director general of the State Intelligence Services came under intense pressure during a recent visit by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission.
The TRRC, as part of their mandate visited the institution formerly the NIA, where numerous allegations of torture reportedly occurred during the 22 years of the Jammeh regime.
Among the places visited was the infamous hellhole called Bambadinka- Crocodile hole in Mandinka, and other detention centers at the premises.
The TRRC team found the place is undergoing massive and enormous renovation of buildings and other structures, known to house torture marks and scenes leading to wide spread allegations that there is calculated destruction of evidence under Sowe who has himself served over 20 years at the institution.
Director General Ousman Sowe, who led the commission on a conducted tour of the SIS premises, denied any suggestions that his administration since assuming office under the Barrow government has played cards to cover up evidence for crimes perpetrated by the then NIA.
At Bambadinka, commissioners raised concerns over discrepancy of its wall and ceiling to the surface floor, which was a layer of smooth cement.
“I am not a building expert but looking at the walls and the ceiling it differs from the floor surface, which indicated that there might be changes made to the Bambadinka floor,” one of the commissioners observed.
According to DG Sowe, the renovations are a means of modernising and reforming the infrastructure of the institution, which he said, was not fit for purpose when they assumed office in 2017.
“We did not see it as affecting anything but to give a fitting environment to our work force,” Sowe said proving photos taken of the premises before the renovations started.
Sowe was further quizzed as to whether his administration had found any hall in the premises referred to as torture chambers with bloodstains over the walls according to TRRC witness testimonies.
In response, he said: “When we came, we had a room that we were not comfortable with what we found in it. But with the belief that that there is no more excess of rights violations, we do not want anything in the hallmark that resembles human rights violations” but revealed that the administration preserved what was found in this room as evidence but the room itself is renovated.
When asked by the lead counsel if it has ever been brought to their attention that the transformation they are to embark upon would have an impact on future investigations, he said they did not think along such lines but focusing on reforms to restructure and reposition the service to be an intelligent service that operates within its core mandate.
He said the SIS have kept a pictorial records of all the ongoing structures as to how they where and their conditions now, adding that other facilities in the institution remain intact.
DG Sowe, who spent 24 years in intelligence, was one time head of investigation under the NIA. He said he has never witnessed nor participated in any tortures in the institution.
Commission chairperson Lamin J Sise said of their visit: “Even though the establishment of the SIS falls outside the review period of the TRRC, there must be continuity and there could be individuals who are aware of what happened during the commission’s review period.”
“We are here because witnesses mentioned the previous NIA several times at the commission. We would want to familiarise and educate ourselves with these allegations of brutalities and atrocities carried out at the former NIA.”