Pressure Belligerent Gambian Regime, Right Groups Insist

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Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Amnesty International staff member at the International Secretariat, London, UK
Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus
Alieu Badara Ceesay

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The regional economic grouping has been urged to “exercise its authority to enforce its Court’s decisions by ensuring the Gambia to conduct a full investigation into the cases of Ebrima Manneh and Musa Saidykhan and pays adequate compensation, as ordered by the ECOWAS Court, for the violations of their human rights.”

The call is contained in a joint statement issued by Amnesty International, Campaign for Human Rights in the Gambia (CHRH) and Coalition for Change-The Gambia (CCG).

The organizations call on Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the European Union to be more decisive and put pressure on the Gambian authorities to implement in good faith their human rights obligations and commitments.

“We also urge the African Union to be more proactive to ensure the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ resolutions and recommendations are effectively implemented,” right groups said, throwing punches at Gambian authorities for their continuous disregard to implement the “decisions and recommendations on their human rights obligations made by international bodies.”

They blamed the Gambia government to abide by the verdict of the ECOWAS Court in 2008 and 2010. In both cases, the Gambia government was found guilty of violating the rights of journalists Ebrima Manneh and Musa Saidykhan. “The Court found the Gambian government to have violated its legal and human rights obligations, but the government has persistently failed to comply with the Court’s judgment. The government is yet to adequately investigate his disappearance and has refused to account for his whereabouts. Further, in 2010 the Court found that the government illegally detained and tortured journalist Musa Saidykhan in 2006. The government has refused to pay him compensation as ordered by the Court.”

The groups also faulted the Gambia for its refusal to implement the resolution passed by the 44th Ordinary Session of the ACHPR held in November 2008 in Nigeria. The resolution did not only condemn human rights violations in the Gambia but also ordered the West African country to “investigate allegations of torture and extrajudicial executions, end the harassment and intimidation of journalists, comply with the ECOWAS Court’s decisions and uphold human rights in the Gambia. The government has not implemented this resolution and the human rights situation has only deteriorated further.”

The Gambia is also challenged on its newly legislated law restricting internet freedom, the only channel of news source for Gambians. The law imposes stiffer punishment on those found wanting, which according to right groups, clearly explains the Gambia government’s intolerance to dissent.

The groups also blame the Gambia government for its complete disregard for human rights of the Gambian people, citing the six months detention incommunicado of Imam Baba Leigh for speaking against last year’s illegal executions of death row inmates.

The organizations called on the Gambian authorities to end their repression of journalists and human rights defenders and urged the international community to strengthen their efforts to improve the human rights situation in the Gambia.