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