The ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja, Nigeria, on February 6, 2012 ordered the Gambian government to comply with its ruling on Musa Saidykahn, a former editor-in-chief of the banned The Independent newspaper, by compensating him for violating his human rights in 2006.
On December 16, 2010, the regional court confirmed that Saidykhan, was tortured by President Yahya Jammeh’s security agents while in detention in 2006. It also ruled that Saidykhan’s arrest and subsequent detention were illegal and violated his right to personal liberty and a fair hearing as guaranteed by Articles 6 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. The ECOWAS court, therefore, awarded Saidykhan damages of US$200,000.
This latest order followed an application filed by the Gambian authorities, the defendant in the case, asking the court to set aside the judgment as they claimed was “miscarriage of justice since the court failed to properly appraise the evidence on record.” They also said the award to the Plaintiff (Saidykhan) is outrageous since there is no evidence on record to show the basis upon which the amount was calculated”.
However, in the court ruling this week, it dismissed the claims by the Gambia authorities on the grounds that there was no new evidence in their (government)’s application that would warrant such an application and therefore awarded cost against the Gambian authorities.
Saidykhan was among scores of Gambians arrested in 2006 after a purported coup attempt. He was repeatedly tortured until he became unconscious. The continuous torture left scars on his back, legs, arms, and right hand, which was broken in three places.
Saidykhan is not the only victim of the repressive regime of President Jammeh. Another journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, a reporter of privately-owned pro-government the Daily Observer newspaper, has “disappeared” since his arrest by security agencies in July 2006.
After a long period of non-action by the authorities to either acknowledge or investigate the human rights violations of the journalists, Media Foundation for West Africa’s (MFWA) brought the legal action on behalf of Saidykhan and Chief Manneh.
In the case of Chief Manneh, the community court in July 2008, ordered the Gambian government to release Chief Manneh, and pay him a compensation of US$ 100,000 for the violation of his human rights. The judgment was given in default as the Gambian government refused to enter an appearance.
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