Gambia UPDATE: ECOWAS Court adjourns judgment in “disappeared” journalist’s case again

The Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has adjourned its judgment in the case of the “dsappearance” of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter for the pro-government Banjul-based Daily Observer newspaper to November 28, 2007.

The case was earlier on set for judgment on November 20, but was deferred to today after one of the three sitting judges was reportedly ill and had travelled overseas for treatment.

Before the adjournment of the case to November 28 for a final submission from Manneh’s lawyer, Femi Falana, a Nigerian human rights lawyer and President of the West African Bar Association (WABA), the Court heardtestimonies from three witnesses.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) filed a legal suit at the sub-regional court to compel the government of President Yahya Jammeh to immediately release and produce Manneh from arbitrary detention since July 2006.

At the Court’s hearings on July 16, 2007, the Gambian government failed to make an appearance and no explanation was also offered. The Community Court therefore adjourned the case to September 26 to enable it duly servethe Gambian government for the second time.

The court confirmed that the Gambian government was duly served with the hearing notice through its High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria. Again, the government of Yahya Jammehfailed to appear.

Manneh was picked on July 11, 2006 by two plain-clothed personnel of the notorious political police, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), at the Daily Observer’s premises. But the government and police claim they do not know the whereabouts of Manneh. Simply put, he has “disappeared”.

After his arrest, the journalist was detained variously at the NIA Headquarters, Mile Two Central Prisons, Kartong Police Station, Sibanor Police Station, Kuntaur Police Station and then at Fatoto Police Station where he was spotted after 188 days.

In reaction to the continuous demands for the release of Manneh, the Gambia Police Force, after eight months of the journalist’s disappearance, on 21 February 2007 officially denied ever arresting him.

On July 26, Manneh was placed under guard of personnel of both the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), (a Para-military wing of the Gambian Police Force) and the Prison Service at Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (RVTH), the Gambia’s main hospital, while being treated for high blood pressure.

Eye witnesses later reported having seen him being transferred to amilitary clinic in Banjul.

Kwame Karikari, Prof.
Executive Director
Tel: 233-21-24 24 70
Fax: 233-21-22 10 84
Email: [email protected]

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