The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) highly applauds the ECOWAS Community Court for its latest ruling in favour of murdered Newspaper Editor, Deyda Hydara. The ruling from the Community Court delivered this month found that The Gambia had failed to properly investigate the murder of Hydara, and violated its treaty obligations to the organisation by promoting a climate of impunity that stifled freedom of expression.

Deyda Hydara was one of The Gambia’s most distinguished journalists before he was shot dead in his car in Banjul, the Gambian capital. He was a leading government critic, writing weekly columns in The Point newspaper, and he mobilized journalists to resist changes to press laws that would have severely muzzled Gambian journalism.

The MFWA believes that the Court’s ruling indeed marks another significant milestone for the rule of law and free expression situation in The Gambia and the entire West African region. The ruling also attests to the Court’s importance and usefulness as it fulfills its mandate of providing justice to individuals and groups who are otherwise denied or unable to seek justice in their own national Courts.

The Media Foundation for West Africa however believes that regional and International Courts are most useful and influential when they adjudicate cases and their decisions are respected and enforced by state parties. In other words, if decisions of such Courts are not complied with by member state parties, there is no significant difference between having and not having such a Court.

The Foundation recalls the Court’s ruling on two previous human rights cases which the Gambian government has blatantly flouted with impunity -the first ruling in June 2008 where the Court found the Gambian authorities responsible for the disappearance of Ebrima Manneh, a journalist with the Daily Observer who has been missing since July 2006; the other in December 2010 where the government was again found responsible for the torture of Musa Saidykhan in 2006, a former chief editor of The Independent newspaper.

The Executive Director of MFWA, Sulemana Braimah, said: “It is worrying that several human right judgements of the ECOWAS Court have not been complied with by member states. While the Court has been recognized as an important institution for the promotion of peace and justice in the region, continued disregard for its decisions among member states will ultimately derail its significance and influence. At a time when there is serious advocacy for African crimes to be trialed in Africa by Africans, there cannot be a better time to strengthen the ECOWAS Court to become a stronger and respected regional Court that commands the confidence and trust of individuals living in West Africa”.

The MFWA continues its campaign for the regional body to invoke sanctions and bring to book offending member states who flout the Court’s judgements. “We hope the Gambia will take appropriate actions in addressing the culture of impunity in that country” – Sulemana Braimah added.

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