Human Rights

Gambia faces ECOWAS court

As journalist ‘torture’ case resumes
By Kemo Cham

The case involving the alleged

torture of journalist Musa Saidykhan by the highly criticized Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is set to resume Wednesday 17th February, 2010, according to a report by
Both Saidykhan and his Senegalese medical doctor are expected to testify before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, according to a press release reportedly issued Friday by the Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), which is championing the search for justice for the victim.
Saidykhan, formerly editor-in-chief of the banned Independent Newspaper in Gambia, who now leaves in exile in the United States, together with his Senegalese doctor will provide the court with material evidence to substantiate the allegations of torture meted out to him by the agents of the Gambian NIA.
The agency is the most feared Gambian security institution among Gambian dissidents. Musa Saidykhan is just one among a whole lot of opponents of President Yahya Jammeh’s regime who were allegedly illegally detained and subjected to all sorts of cruel treatment including torture.
The former Independent editor claimed that while in detention he got tortured until he became unconscious. He has scars on several parts of his body, and, according to other reports, his right hand got broken in the course of his ordeal.
Like many opponents who face treats to their life from the Gambian government, Saidykhan fled into neighbouring Senegal immediate after his release, where he received treatment.
tortue_caseThe Ghana based MFWA initially brought the case to the Community Court of ECOWAS in 2007, in demand for justice for the victim. Many are skeptical though as to what significance any ruling regarding this matter will have, giving that this same court, in a separate ruling, has declared the arrest and subsequent disappearance of another Gambian journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, illegal. Mr Manneh who was a senior editor with the Banjul based pro-government newspaper, the Daily Observer, was detained on the orders of some allies of the Gambian leader for allegedly attempting to publish an article critical of Yahya Jammeh.
The Gambian government continues to refuse to comply with the court’s ruling regarding Manneh’s case, blatantly refusing knowledge of the whereabouts of the journalists, even though colleagues of the detainee have testified witnessing his arrest by the agents who picked him up from the offices of the Daily Observer.
“The Gambian government fearing more suits by other aggrieved journalists and Gambian citizens who have been victims of its brutalities, in September 2009 tried unsuccessfully to get the heads of ECOWAS countries to support an amendment of the ECOWAS protocol which allows citizens access to the court without first exhausting local remedies. This was after it had failed to get the Community Court to dismiss the case of Saidykhan,’’ quoted the statement from MFWA.
“MFWA is confident that the court, one of the most highly respected regional mechanisms, will demonstrate fairness and ensure that justice is brought to the aggrieved party.”
It remains to be seen though, despite the respectability of the court, whether the Gambia government will give heed to any unfavourable ruling that eventually result from this.

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