By Sanna Camara
A renowned international security expert has told Gambia Beat that Gambian president studied in “the worst US military torture school” as a soldier, which probably explains why the leader uses torture as weapon to “punish” his critics.
Former Latin American military dictators like Augusto Pinochet of Chile, who was indicted by Spanish Court for crimes of torture and mass executions, and once arrested, detained in London in the 90s, went to the same military school as Yahya Jammeh.
Under Pinochet’s rule in Chile, students, writers, Catholics, indigenous people and union workers were all rounded up and sent to the torture centers sprouting up across Santiago like mushrooms.
Providing military training to US allies
The school, formerly called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), was founded in 1946 as a United States Department of Defense Institute located at Fort Bening. It provides military training to government personnel in US-allied nations.
From 1961, the military school was “assigned the specific goal of teaching “anti-communist counterinsurgency training,” a role which it would fulfill for the rest of the Cold War.
“In this period, [the school] educated several Latin American dictators, generations of their military and, during the 1980s, included the use of torture in its curriculum.
By 2000 the School of the Americas was under increasing criticism in the United States for training students who later participated in undemocratic governments and committed human rights abuses.
Turning Gambia into a torture country
After joining the Gambian National Army in 1984, Yahya Jammeh was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1989, and in 1992 became commander of the Gambian Military Police. He received “extensive military training” in Senegal and at the United States Army School of the Americas.
Today, major international rights groups like Amnesty International and the UN are in agreement over Gambia being a leading torture country in the world.
According to Amnesty International, “torture is used routinely in Gambia to force confessions and to punish detainees.”
Significant evidence has emerged in trials in recent years suggesting that people were tortured to extract confessions, raising concerns about the admissibility of the evidence, Amnesty has said about Gambia.
In November 2014, two United Nations human rights experts were forced to suspend an integral part of their visit to The Gambia when they were denied access to parts of a prison and prevented from completing a torture and killing investigation.