Gambia UPDATE: Judgment in “disappeared” journalist’s case on January 31

The Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has slated its judgment in the case of the “disappearance” of Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter for the pro-government Banjul-based Daily Observer newspaper for January 31, 2008.

The Court said it should be given enough time to write its judgment on the case. The decision was taken by a panel of three judges after hearing the final submission from Manneh’s lawyer, Femi Falana, a Nigerian human rights lawyer and President of the West African Bar Association (WABA).The Court on November 26, heard testimonies from three witnesses, one Of whom testified that he witnessed the arrest of Chief Manneh by Personnel of the notoriously feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on July 7,2006 at the pro-government Daily Observer premises.Another witness testified that he saw Manneh in December 2006 at a Police Station in Fatoto, Gambia’s last eastern town, about 500 kilometres from the capital, Banjul.

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 serve the 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 a Yahya Jammeh failed to appear.

Manneh was picked by two plain-clothes personnel of the notorious political police, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), 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 a military 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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