MFWA hails Gambia’s decision to comply with ECOWAS court ruling on journalists

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) – The Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) on Monday hailed the Gambia government’s decision to comply with rulings made by a sub-regional court in favour of three Gambian journalists.

In a statement obtained by PANA, MFWA called the development “a major breakthrough”. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court ruled against former Gambian government for violating the rights of journalists. Now, the new government says it will comply with the rulings in the cases of murdered Deyda Hydara, disappeared Chief Ebrima Manneh and tortured Musa Saidykhan”.

“The announcement that measures have been put in place to start meeting with the families of the victims is therefore a milestone in the long and arduous journey embarked on by the MFWA and its national partner organization in The Gambia, the GPU (Gambia Press Union), as well as other local and international media and human rights organizations to bring closure to the three emblematic cases of impunity”.

According to the statement, following a successful transfer of power to the current administration, the MFWA undertook a mission to The Gambia and held discussions on the cases with government officials including President Adama Barrow who indicated his commitment to press freedom and fighting impunity in The Gambia.

It said Gambian Minister of Information and Communications Infrastructure, Demba Ali Jawo and Special Adviser to the Minister of Justice, Mr Hussein Thomasi announced the decision on 2 November at a forum held by the MFWA.

“The Honourable Minister of Justice has commenced negotiations for the fulfilment of the judgements,” Mr Thomasi was quoted saying. “We are members of ECOWAS so we cannot do anything in contravention of the body.”

Deyda Hydara, a former president of the Gambia Press Union, Editor of The Point newspaper and fierce critic of the Jammeh administration, was shot and killed by unknown assailants on his way from work on 16 December, 2004.

Following the incident, the state opened an investigation into his death and closed it after 22 days. Upon a successful suit by his family, the ECOWAS Court found the Gambian government guilty of not conducting a proper investigation into his murder, thereby allowing a climate of impunity to thrive and thus stifling freedom of expression. The court also ordered the Gambian government to pay US$50,000 in compensatory damages.

In the case of Musa Saidykhan, he was arrested on 27 March, 2006 at his home by police and officials of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and taken to the agency’s offices were he was detained for 22 days.

Within the period, Saidykhan was moved from various detention centres. While in detention, he was accused of being a traitor for appealing to then president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki to intervene in the human rights violations (including the murder of Hydara) in The Gambia.

The NIA also arrested two of his colleagues and accused them of authoring an ‘error-ridden’ story on a failed coup. The officials tortured them on various occasions including the administration of electrical shocks to Saidykhan’s body which sent him into coma for about 30 minutes. He was later released on bail after which he went into exile.

Chief Ebrima Manneh, a Reporter of The Daily Observer, for his part, was arrested by the NIA on 7 July, 2006 for passing what it described as “damaging” information to a BBC journalist during an African Union meeting.

He was also accused of attempting to republish a BBC story criticising Jammeh’s coup. After his arrest, Manneh was spotted with prison, police and NIA officers as he was moved between various police stations and detention centres.

Despite overwhelming eyewitness evidence that the NIA arrested Manneh and detained him incommunicado on the orders of President Yahya Jammeh government, they denied denied taking him into custody and he has since not been seen.

The court in 2008 ruled that Manneh’s arrest and detention were illegal and ordered the Gambian authorities to immediately release him and pay him or in in default his family US$100,000 compensation. The judgment was given in default as the Gambian government refused to enter an appearance.

In 2010, the Court ruled that The Gambia had violated Saidykhan’s human rights and awarded him US$200,000 in compensatory damages. The Gambia under President Jammeh refused to comply with the court’s judgement despite persistent calls by several organisations.
-0- PANA MLJ/MA 6Nov2017

06 november 2017 19:25:56

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