A German court has sentenced Gambian man Bai Lowe to life in prison for his participation in a death squad responsible for assassinating opponents of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, including an AFP journalist. Lowe, who served as a driver for the hit squad known as the Junglers, was convicted of crimes against humanity, murder, and attempted murder. Prosecutors had requested a life sentence for Lowe, who denies the charges against him.
The Junglers unit was utilized by Yahya Jammeh to carry out illegal killing orders and suppress opposition in The Gambia, according to federal prosecutors. The list of alleged crimes includes the 2004 killing of AFP correspondent Deyda Hydara. Lowe was found to have assisted in stopping Hydara’s car and driving one of the killers in his own vehicle.
This trial marks the first attempt to address human rights violations committed during the Jammeh era in The Gambia based on universal jurisdiction. The principle allows foreign countries to prosecute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide, regardless of where they were committed.
Deyda Hydara, an editor and co-founder of the independent daily The Point, was a respected journalist in The Gambia for over 30 years. He also worked as a correspondent for AFP and a Gambia correspondent for Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Hydara’s killing occurred amidst surveillance by Gambian intelligence services, according to investigations by RSF.
In addition to his involvement in Hydara’s assassination, prosecutors accuse Lowe of participating in the attempted assassination of lawyer Ousman Sillah and the murder of Dawda Nyassi, a suspected opponent of the president.
Bai Lowe arrived in Europe in 2012, seeking asylum as a political refugee fearing for his life under Jammeh’s regime. He was detained in Germany in March 2021 on the charges. Evidence against Lowe includes a telephone interview he gave in 2013, where he described his participation in the attacks. However, Lowe claimed in a statement read out to the court that he had merely repeated what others had told him to illustrate the cruelty of Jammeh’s government.
Yahya Jammeh ruled Gambia for 22 years before fleeing the country in 2017 after losing a presidential election. He currently resides in Equatorial Guinea. Reed Brody, a lawyer with the International Commission of Jurists working with Jammeh’s victims, expressed hope that the law would catch up to Jammeh himself.
Lowe is one of three alleged accomplices of Jammeh who have been detained abroad. Former interior minister Ousman Sonko is under investigation in Switzerland since 2017, and another alleged former Jungler, Michael Sang Correa, was indicted in the United States in June 2020.
The Gambian government has also expressed its intention to work with the regional ECOWAS bloc to establish a tribunal to try crimes committed under Jammeh’s regime.