On December 16, 2004, Deyda Hydara, editor of The Point newspaper and president of the Gambia Press Union, was shot and killed while he was returning home from work. Hydara was a long-time critic of the Jammeh government and led efforts to advocate against legislative restrictions on press freedom in The Gambia. Ten years later, Hydara’s murder remains unsolved and stands as a testament to the culture of impunity in The Gambia.
“Pervasive impunity in The Gambia has facilitated the perpetration of grave human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests and detentions, and gross violations of freedom of expression,” said Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of the MFWA. “Thus, perpetrators are not deterred from committing abuses as they do not have to fear consequences.”
Gambian and international civil society groups have repeatedly called for an effective investigation into Hydara’s death. These cries for justice have been stifled by the government, which has blocked attempts to commemorate the anniversary of his death and also detained journalists who decried the government’s failure to investigate.
The Gambian government’s systematic failure to condemn and effectively investigate grave human rights violations against media professionals and political dissidents for many years before Hydara was killed contributed to his death, according to a judgment by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice in June 2014. The Court found that the government had failed to conduct a proper investigation into Hydara’s murder and allowed a culture of impunity in The Gambia to thrive, which in itself violates freedom of expression. For its inaction, the government was ordered by the Court to pay $50,000 in damages to the family of Hydara. However, The Gambia faces no sanctions if it fails to implement judgments by the Court.
The MFWA recently crowned President Jammeh ‘West Africa’s King of Impunity’ because of the egregious human rights violations and systematic impunity in The Gambia under his rule.
“For two decades, West Africa’s King of Impunity, President Jammeh, has demonstrated his lack of respect for the rule of law and for the rights of his people,” said Braimah. “We hope that Jammeh’s new title will raise awareness about his abuses and thus push his government to end impunity for Hydara’s murder and the countless violations against other Gambians.”
On the tenth anniversary of Hydara’s murder for exercising his right to freedom of expression, the MFWA calls on The Gambia to implement decisions by human rights bodies—including the ECOWAS Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights—concerning violations. The MFWA also urges the ECOWAS to impose and enforce sanctions on The Gambia for its persistent non-compliance and violations of its statutory obligations.