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June 11, 2020Denver, CO, United StatesHuman Rights Violators

Gambian man indicted on torture charges

DENVER – A Gambian man previously residing in Denver, Colorado, was arrested today on torture charges stemming from his actions specifically intended to inflict severe physical pain and suffering on individuals in his custody and control in The Gambia in 2006.

An indictment was returned June 2 and unsealed today charging Michael Sang Correa, 41, a national of The Gambia, with one count of conspiracy to commit torture and six counts of inflicting torture on specific individuals. Correa made his first court appearance on the charges today before U.S. Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter in the District of Colorado.

"Michael Correa's case is another example of our commitment to pursue those who attempt to evade accountability for their actions by fleeing to the United States," said Assistant Director David C. Shaw of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), National Security Investigations Division, who oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center. "HSI will continue to investigate perpetrators of torture, genocide, and other war crimes to ensure the United States does not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators."

"Michael Correa allegedly committed heinous acts of violence against victim after victim in a brutal effort to coerce confessions from suspected coup plotters in The Gambia," said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. "These charges underscore that the United States will not be a safe haven for perpetrators of torture and that human rights violators will be held accountable and brought to justice."

"The crimes Correa is accused of are heinous and his victims deserve nothing less than justice," said Eric Balliet, deputy special agent in charge, HSI Denver. "HSI and our international partners will continue to hold human rights violators accountable from regimes that seek to oppress their own people. In trying to take refuge in our community, Correa demonstrates how human rights violators will try to hide among the communities they have terrorized but we're here to ensure he is held accountable for his alleged crimes."

"As federal prosecutors, our mission is to seek out injustice and to hold accountable those who perpetuate it, regardless of where it occurs," said U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn of the District of Colorado. "With this arrest, we are not only holding accountable a man who has allegedly committed horrific acts of torture against his own people, but demonstrating to the people of The Gambia, and indeed the entire world, that the United States stands for the rule of law and against those who abuse human rights."

The indictment alleges that in 2006, Correa, a former member of a Gambian armed unit known as the Junglers, conspired with others to commit torture against individuals suspected of plotting a failed coup attempt against then-President Yahya Jammeh, and that he inflicted torture on six victims. The Junglers were composed of individuals who had been selected from the ranks of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) but operated outside the regular GAF chain of command. The Junglers received orders from then-President Yahya Jammeh and answered to him.

In March 2006, the Jammeh government learned that individuals within The Gambia were attempting to overthrow the Jammeh government. The Jammeh government reacted by arresting numerous individuals believed to have been part of plotting the attempt to overthrow the Jammeh government. Individuals who were arrested were taken to a prison known as Mile 2 Prison and to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters to be interrogated about their role in the coup attempt and were subjected to severe physical and mental abuses at NIA headquarters.

The indictment alleges that during this time frame, in March and April 2006, the defendant and his co-conspirators severely and repeatedly beat their victims with their fists, feet, boots, and objects including plastic pipes, wires, and branches. The co-conspirators sometimes covered the victims' heads with plastic bags, restricting their ability to breathe, and subjected some victims to electrocution on various parts of their bodies. The indictment further alleges that one victim was suspended over the ground in a rice bag and beaten severely by the co-conspirators. Others had molten plastic or acid dripped on their bodies.

The charges and allegations in the indictment are merely accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

HSI Denver is leading the investigation of this case with support from HSI agents in Dakar, Senegal, as well as personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Banjul and the FBI Legal Attaché in Dakar. The Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) significantly supported the case. Established in 2009 to further ICE's efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, the HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, attorneys, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency's broader enforcement efforts against those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers.

Since 2003, ICE has arrested more than 460 individuals for human rights-related violations of the law under various criminal and/or immigration statutes. During that same period, ICE obtained deportation orders and/or physically removed from the United States 1,057 known or suspected human rights violators. Additionally, ICE has facilitated the departure of an additional 167 such individuals from the United States.

Currently, HSI has more than 165 active investigations into suspected human rights violators and is pursuing more than 1,640 leads and removal cases involving suspected human rights violators from 95 different countries. Since 2003, the HRVWCC has issued more than 76,500 lookouts for individuals from more than 110 countries and stopped over 325 human rights violators and war crimes suspects from entering the U.S.

Members of the public who have information about foreign nationals suspected of engaging in human rights abuses or war crimes are urged to call the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2423 (1-866-347-2423). Callers may remain anonymous. To learn more about the assistance available to victims in these cases, the public should contact ICE's confidential victim-witness toll-free number at 1-866-872-4973.