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Early next year, the Economic Community of West African States' (ECOWAS) Community Court is expected to rule in a case brought against the Gambian government on behalf of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, reports the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). Manneh was arrested in July 2006 and has been held incommunicado ever since.

Situations like Manneh's have led human rights groups and other civil society organisations within and outside West Africa to come together to respond to media repression and human rights abuses in the Gambia.

A meeting organised by MFWA and its partners in Accra, Ghana on 8 and 9 November was part of the campaign aimed at ending impunity and gross human rights violations that have plagued the 13-year rule of President Yahya Jammeh. Manneh is one of many Gambian journalists who have either been arrested and tortured by President Jammeh's government or forced to flee the country, especially in the wake of a failed coup attempt in 2006.

Participants agreed to undertake civil and criminal litigation against the Gambian authorities in local, regional and international courts over cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary media closure. According to MFWA, Manneh's case at the ECOWAS court is the first time that the media has taken an African government to court on a continental and sub-regional level. MFWA is hoping that ECOWAS will put pressure on the Gambian government to immediately release him.

"We think this is a very important test for all of Africa - whether or not the mechanisms that we have put in place to seek justice in cases concerning human rights would act in the spirit and the interest of the African people," MFWA's executive director Kwame Karikari told Voice of America.

MFWA has since launched another suit at ECOWAS against the Gambian government over a case of illegal detention and torture of journalist Musa Saidykhan.

Participants are also calling for countries in the region, particularly Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Togo whose citizens were murdered by the Gambian authorities in 2005, to target President Jammeh and his government by boycotting their businesses, issuing visa and travel bans, and cutting off foreign assistance to military and security agencies.

Protests are also planned in the Gambia and at embassies worldwide on African and International Human Rights Days, and at other major regional meetings.

Fore more information on the campaign, visit:

Visit these links:
- MFWA on Manneh:
- MFWA on Saidykan:
- VOA:
(4 December 2007)

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