ECOWAS Court adjourns hearing on Gambian government request for review of two landmark judgements
(MFWA) The ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja, Nigeria, on September 26, 2011 adjourned indefinitely its hearing of applications for reviews of two landmark judgements brought before it by Gambian authorities involving two Gambian journalists.
The first relates to the illegal arrests and torture of Musa Saidykhan, a former editor-in-chief of banned The Independent newspaper. In the second case, the Gambian government was ordered to release Chief Ebrima Manneh, a foreign editor of privately-owned pro-government the Daily Observer newspaper and compensate him, costs were awarded against the authorities in both cases.
After more than a year 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.
The Gambian authorities stated in their applications that they were “dissatisfied” with both judgements.
According to the application regarding Saidykhan, which was filed on March 31, 2011, the Gambian authorities claimed there was “miscarriage of justice since the court failed to properly appraise the evidence on record.” They also said the award of “US$200,000 to the Plaintiff (Saidykhan) is outrageous since there is no evidence on record to show the basis upon which the amount was calculated”.
They raised issues with why the currency had to be in United States Dollars and not the Gambian Dalasi “given that the plaintiff is a citizen and at all times a resident of The Gambia.”
In response, Saidykhan’s counsels drew the attention of the court to the fact that the defendant has violated Article 92 of rules of the court, which gives three months period within which judgements of the court could be challenged. The Gambian authorities filed their application on March 31, 2011; 15 days after the period had elapsed.
On the issue of the currency, Saidykhan counsels argued that “once breach of fundamental human rights is established Plaintiff need not prove damage hence no basis for any arithmetic precision as to the way and manner the Court arrived at the decision of $200,000... Additionally, there was no provision in the rules of the court which spells out substantive currencies in resolving disputes between parties”.
In the case of Chief Manneh, The Community court in July 2008, ordered the Gambian government (who refused to enter an appearance) to release Chief Manneh, and pay him a compensation of US$ 100,000 for the violation of his human rights.
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