A German court has sentenced a Gambian man to life imprisonment for his role in a paramilitary unit that killed opponents of the country’s former ruler Yahya Jammeh.
The man, identified as Bai L. by the German justice system and who was a driver for the security unit known as “the Junglers”, was convicted on Thursday (30 November) in the town of Celle of crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder.
Jammeh, who ruled for 22 years and fled the country in 2017 after losing an election, is also wanted for prosecution.
According to a statement by the German federal prosecutors, “the Junglers” was a death squad that carried out illegal killings among other activities to intimidate the Gambian population and suppress the opposition.
Among the crimes Bai L. was linked to was the 2004 killing of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara, which caused global outrage.
Hydara, the then editor of The Point newspaper who also worked for the AFP news agency, was a fierce critic of draconian media laws in The Gambia.
The well-respected journalist was gunned down on the outskirts of the capital, Banjul, in December 2004. No one was charged with his murder.
Bai L. was tried in Germany under the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, following his arrest in Hanover in 2021. And his trial marked the first time human rights violations during Jammeh’s dictatorship would be addressed through universal jurisdiction. The legal principle allows foreign countries to prosecute such crimes regardless of where they occurred.
Bai L., who has been seeking asylum in Europe since 2012, was detained in Germany in 2021. The evidence against him includes a telephone interview where he described his participation in the attacks.
Jammeh seized power in a coup in 1994 aged 29 and ruled The Gambian with force and fear until he was forced from power in January 2017 by ECOWAS troops after losing elections in December 2016. The former dictator currently lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.
Reed Brody, a lawyer with the International Commission of Jurists who works to seek justice for victims of the Jammeh era, expressed his joy at the conviction of Bai L. “The long arm of the law has caught up to Bai Lowe in Germany… as it will hopefully soon catch up to Jammeh himself,” he said.