The 22-year dictatorship of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (1994 – 2016) was marked by widespread human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killing, sexual violence, and arbitrary detention. Many of these crimes were carried out by the Junglers, a paramilitary division of the presidential guard that reported directly to Jammeh.
Michael Correa, 41, was an alleged member of this notorious death squad, whose members have confessed to committing torture and other serious human rights abuses. Following a failed coup d’état in 2006, the Junglers tortured suspected coup members and extracted forced confessions. Survivors of this torture testified at Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that Correa personally tortured them or was present while other Junglers engaged in torture. In 2006, The Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency’s report on interrogations following the attempted coup also implicated Correa in torture. Former Junglers told the TRRC that Correa not only tortured individuals suspected of planning the coup, but also participated in numerous other extrajudicial killings, including the killing of journalists Dayda Hydara and Chief Ebrima Manneh in 2012, and the murder of Gambian-Americans Alhagie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe in 2013.
On September 17, 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrested Correa in Denver, Colorado for overstaying his visa. Following news of his detention, a coalition of human rights organizations and Correa’s victims, including CJA, the African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances, the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Guernica Centre for International Justice, Human Rights Watch, the Solo Sandeng Foundation, and TRIAL International called on the United States to investigate the credible allegations of grave international crimes committed by Correa in Gambia. On February 18, 2020, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Richard Durbin also urged the government to investigate Correa and, if warranted, to prosecute him in the United States.
On June 11, 2020, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado announced Correa’s indictment on six counts of torture and one count of conspiracy to commit torture. Following this announcement, the Gambian Ministry of Justice issued a press release in support of the indictment. The indictment alleges that Correa and other Junglers severely beat their victims with plastic pipes, wires, and branches, suffocated them with plastic bags, dripped molten plastic and acid on their bodies, and subjected them to electric shocks. CJA currently represents victims of Correa in this proceeding pursuant to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
Correa’s indictment represents the first prosecution of a member of Jammeh’s death squads anywhere in the world. Correa is also only the third person to be charged under the United States’ extraterritorial torture statue, 18 U.S.C. §2340A, which allows the federal government to prosecute anyone who committed, or attempted or conspired to commit, torture abroad, as long as the perpetrator is present in the U.S. The only other individuals to be charged under this statute are Sulejman Mujagic for crimes allegedly committed in the Bosnian War, who was extradited to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2013 to stand trial there for murder and torture, and Charles “Chuckie” Taylor, Jr., the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who was convicted in 2008 and is now serving a 97-year prison sentence in Florida.