Monthly Archives: December 2010

ecowas court restores my human dignity

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I am grateful to God for sparing my life to witness what I have been longing to see for years – the restoration of my human dignity by a panel of judges at the ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja, Nigeria. My illegal arrest and detention and subsequent inhumane tortures were purposely meant to seize my dignity.

Unfortunately, the people who led my torture sessions had long since joined their ancestors. Musa Jammeh and Tumbul Tamba would have been buried in shame or received heavy punches from their master fond of exonerating himself from blame when things go wrong.

One may wonder why I was not so quick to react to this much-awaited landmark court. The fact is that I received the news with mixed feelings – it was like being blown with hot and cold air at the same time.

I would have been much happier had Deyda Hydara’s killers been brought to justice and punished for their heinous crime, or if the government comes public with what had happened to Chief Ebrima Manneh whose whereabouts remain mysterious, despite being arrested and detained by the very government whose leadership swore to protect him.                                                                                                          

I was definitely delighted that after years of denial, vigorous defense aimed at covering the truth, the court has proven The Gambia government guilty of illegal arrest, detention and torture.

This is the kind of justice I will be denied outright in The Gambia where the judiciary has lost its credentials of being the last bastion of hope. Our judicial justice has been so rotten that majority of victimized Gambians prefer to cry in silence rather than seek legal redress. What a mockery to democracy, rule of law and justice delivery system!

The trial was long, tiring, time-consuming and expensive but my determination to play my little part to correct injustice and defend the rights of would-be victims kept me riding, which was why I did not budge even a second throughout the trial. And as a journalist, I would have committed a grave crime for not seeking legal redress against violations of my God-given rights, something I had been advocating for throughout my entire career.

It was not easy shuttling back and forth to Nigeria where I had frictions with immigration officials at the Nmadi Azikwe International Airport for not securing a visa. I defended that as an ECOWAS citizen, I did not need a visa to Nigeria as long as I am not staying beyond 90 days, which was understood by immigration officials.

But they insisted that as a bearer of United States Travel Document, I needed a visa but I remained adamant. In all cases, I had to be bailed me out, and given only a week to stay in Abuja with threats that “you will be smoked out” had I extended my stay. I was prepared to bear these challenges on my road to justice.

I am delighted that this long, tedious and rocky journey to justice has finally come to an end with such a resounding victory, an obvious significant factor in our quest to establish a society free of all forms of human rights violations. This is a victory for democracy, rule of law, press freedom and justice. I therefore dedicate this victory to my fallen colleagues and human rights defenders denied justice all over the world.

I hope The Gambia government will admit their fault and correct its rotten human rights credentials so as to avoid embarassing legal confrontations over human rights violations in future. I am eagerly waiting to see whether the Jammeh government will swallow its pride and honour the court’s verdict.

I am grateful to my family, the Media Foundation for West Africa, Falana Falana Chambers, Dr. Dialo Diop of Senegal, all the insitutions and individuals for their undivided support and solidarity throughout the trial.

tortured gambia editor wins legal fight

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The ECOWAS Community Court confirmed onDecember 16,2010 that Musa Saidykhan, the former  editor-in-chief of the banned Banjul-based, The Independent newspaper, was tortured by President Yahya Jammeh’s security agents while in detention in 2006.

The regional court also ruled that his arrest and subsequent detention by the authorities were illegal and violated his right to personal liberty and fair hearing as guaranteed by Articles 6 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

The four-member panel therefore  awarded him damages of two hundred thousand US dollars (US$200,000) far below the two million US dollars (US$2,000,000.00) that Saidykhan requested.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) through its Media Legal Defence programme in 2008 initiated the action to seek justice for Saidykhan and many others who have suffered the brutalities of the repressive regime of President Jammeh and have escaped into exile.

This is not the first time that The Gambia has lost a case against MFWA. In 2008, the ECOWAS Court declared as illegal the arrest, subsequent detention and “disappearance” of another Gambian journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter of the pro-government The Daily Observer newspaper. Since Manneh’s arrest in 2006, he has disappeared. The regional court awarded him as compensation one hundred thousand US dollars (US$100,000). The judgment was in default as the authorities gleefully refused to enter an appearance.

Today’s judgment is significant because it coincides with the sixth year that a prominent journalist, Deyda Hydara, was gruesomely murdered by unknown assailants believed to be “rogue elements” of the regime. Till today no proper investigations have been conducted into the murder.

Both parties at the end of the hearing welcomed the court’s decision. Martin Okoh, who represented the Gambian authorities, told the court he would ensure that the authorities implement the ruling. On his part, Femi Falana, lead counsel for Saidykhan described the judgment as the victory for the rule of law in West Africa and appealed to leaders in the region to respect the rights of their citizens.

Source: Media Foundation for West Africa