By Randle DeFalco (justsecurity.com)
United States senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois have requested that the US Justice Department prosecute Gambian national Michael Sang Correa — who is currently in US custody in Colorado for overstaying a visa — for his alleged role as an enforcer for deposed Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh.
In a February 18th letter to US Attorney General William Barr and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, Leahy and Durbin provided an overview of the allegations against Correa, a former captain in The Gambia National Army and member of the Jammeh regime’s notorious Junglers, a secret unit implicated in arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings of civilians.
The two senators point out that Correa himself is alleged to have participated in various acts of torture, including against at least one US citizen, and played a role in the murder of two identified US citizens, Alhagie Mamut Ceesay and Ebou Jobe. Consequently, as the Senators point out, Correa could be prosecuted for these crimes under at least two federal laws (18 USC §2332 and 18 USC §2340A).
However, prosecutions in US courts for acts of torture or the killing of US citizens occurring outside the US have been rare. There are many factors that combine to create this scarcity, ranging from practical challenges such as the availability of evidence, to legal ones, such as the lack of applicable US laws in some instances, to financial ones, given the relative expense of carrying out criminal prosecutions for extraterritorial acts.
Nonetheless, as Leahy and Durbin pointed out in their letter, Congress has expressly directed the Justice Department to prioritise the prosecution of human rights violators. There is also a specific US Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit, the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit tasked with, inter alia, “identify[ing] and prosecut[ing] individuals who have been involved and/or responsible for the commission of human rights abuses across the globe.” Correa clearly represents a prime target for this unit to investigate and prosecute.