Human Rights

In Musa Saidyhkan Vs Gambia

Gov’t begs for adjournment
By Kemo Cham

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice has adjourned it hearing of the case involving Musa Saidykhan, an alleged torture victim, and the Gambia government, the accused in the case.
According to a press release by the Ghana based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the February 17, 2010 hearing by the community court in Abuja was adjourned at the request of the Gambian government, which cited its preparation for the country’s 45th anniversary celebrations, slated for Thursday, 18 February.
Mr Saidykhan alleges that he was tortured by agents of the feared Gambian intelligence body, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), while he was in state custody.
According to the statement from MFWA, the hearing has been adjourned to April 27, 2010.
‘‘The Gambian government had asked the court for an adjournment because the day was being observed in Gambia as a public holiday,’’ the MFWA statement said. It added, ‘‘However, Femi Falana, a member of Media Foundation for West Africa Legal Defence Programme rejected the defence excuse, saying the Gambian holiday is not an ECOWAS holiday.’’  tortue_caseThe statement went on to say that as a result, Saidykhan’s medical doctor who was present in court could not testify as expected. It added that when the case resumes on the next adjourned date, Saidykhan, his medical doctor and a third witness will give evidence to the court.
Saidykhan, a former editor-in-chief of the banned Independent newspaper, is just one among dozens of Gambian journalist who have allegedly undergone cruel treatment in the hands of the Gambian intelligence agency widely believed to be under the direct supervision of President Yahya Jammeh himself, while under their custody in the aftermath of the alleged coup attempt in March 2006.
Saidykhan alleges that while in custody he was repeatedly tortured until he became unconscious. He has scars all over his body to show for his claims. The doctor who treated him while in exile in neighboring Senegal flew into Abuja to give evidence in court.
Despite its absence in court, however, there is a point of interest in the latest attitude of the Gambian government towards the case.
As the statement from MFWA put it, ‘‘this move by the Gambian government is a complete departure from previous posture of disrespect for the regional court.’’ The foundation cited example of an instance where the Gambian authorities stubbornly refused to enter appearance in the case of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, formerly a reporter of the pro-government newspaper, the Daily Observer, who was arrested on the orders of allies of the Gambian president.
Yahya Jammeh’s government has refused to comply with the court’s ruling regarding Chief Manneh’s case. The detained journalist’s whereabouts remains unknown, much to the disappointment and continued emotional suffering of his ailing parents.

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