Buba Yarboe and his mum

(JollofNews) One of the death row inmates executed in August 2012  on the orders of former President Yahya Jammeh was reported to be suffering from  severe ‘mental problems’ and  was once admitted at the Campama Psychiatric Unit in Banjul.

Buba Yarboe, who was 27, and originated from Busumbala Village, was among eight other prisoners that were suffocated to death with plastic bags  and dumped in an abandoned well by members of the president’s hit squad.

The Gambia Government had earlier said the prisoners were executed by a firing squad on Sunday 26th August 2012 , but a group of soldiers who admitted carrying out the executive directives said none of the prisoners were shot nor did they hear the sound of gunshots from the time the prisoners were picked up at Mile Two Prisons until they were killed.

Yarboe was sentenced to death by Justice Lamin Jobarteh (who was minister for Justice at the time of the executions) of the Banjul High Court in November 2010 for the murder of his mother Jainaba Jarjou.

According to his family, Yarboe developed mental illness over a decade ago and was receiving medical treatment at home when he struck his mother with an iron rod on the head in March 2009.

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“The incident was very unfortunate. Buba Yarboe was not born with mental incapacities, but had been mentally ill for almost a decade, Bakary Colley, Yarboe’s great uncle told journalists shortly after his (Yarboe’s) arrest by police.

“Buba was first sent to Giboro, Kombo East, for traditional mental health treatment before being moved to the Campama Psychiatric Unit in Banjul for further treatment. However, he was later discharged from the centre due to lack of space and was taking drugs given to him regularly by the clinic at home.”

Lamin Fofana, one of Yarboe’s neighbours, also confirmed his mental illness to journalists. He said everyone in the community knew that Yarboe was mentally ill.

Former Justice Lamin Jobarteh

“Since he was discharged from the Campama Psychiatric Unit, he used to behave violently towards his family and had once even tried to hack off his own  brother’s neck with a machete,” he added.

Yarboe’s insanity was raised before Justice Ikpala of the Special Court in May 2010 by his defence counsel EM Sissoho, who made an application for him to be medically examined to ascertain his state of mind, with the view to determining whether he could make his defence.

Lawyer Sissoho  had argued in court that his client was incapable of making a defence and urged the court to invoke Section 132 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

However, this was rejected by the principal state counsel at the time, S H Barkun (director of Public Prosecution at the time of the execution) on the grounds that ‘he was not out of control, could remember what transpired at the scene of crime and had given evidence disclosing all that transpired between the deceased and himself.’

This was agreed by the presiding judge, who said he did not find any abnormality in Yarboe as he had answered questions put to him by the prosecution.

The case was later transferred to Justice Lamin Jobarteh who in November 2010, found Yarboe guilty on all charges and sentenced him to death.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Jobarteh, said Yarboe had never denied the allegations of the crime against him as he was manifestly and clearly deemed to have admitted the truth of the allegations against him.

Justice Jobarteh said he was inclined without any reservation to believe that the confession contained in Yarboe’s cautionary and voluntary statements which he made in the presence of an independence witness was implicating, voluntary and corroborated by the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses.

He said he also found as a fact that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses was consistent, assertive and explicit which were not shaken under cross-examination.

On the issue of insanity raised by the defence, Justice Jobarteh pointed out that insanity is in various forms and that an expert witness, Lamin Sidibeh, a senior lecturer in Psychology and the Dean of student Affairs at the University of the Gambia, who testified for the defence had  not helped the court to resolve Yarboe’s mental status if there was any.

He added that he was inclined to accept the argument of the prosecution that the expert witness is a psychologist and lacks the expertise of a psychiatrist and his evidence was unhelpful and unreliable.

He added: “To establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proven that at the time of committing the act, the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”

Yarboe did not appeal against his sentence and conviction, and until his execution; he was reported to have developed severe mental illness at the Mile Two Central Prisons.