(MFWA/IFEX) - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Oslo, Norway, at the IFEX General Meeting. Forty-five IFEX members signed on to the following statement, calling on The Gambian government to enforce an ECOWAS court judgement of the journalist's case:
The Gambia should enforce ECOWAS court judgement: release Chief Ebrimah Manneh
June 5, 2009 marks one year since the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice delivered a judgement on the case of Chief Ebrimah Manneh and The Republic of The Gambia (suit no. ECW/CCJ/APP/04/07) and one year since The Gambian government's refusal to comply with this decision.
In April 2007, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) lodged a complaint before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on the behalf of Chief Ebrimah Manneh, a journalist with the "Daily Observer" newspaper, who was arrested on July 11, 2006 by two agents of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Since this arrest, Chief Ebrimah Manneh has never been seen and the government has consistently denied detaining him despite several testimonies to the contrary from witnesses.
It must be recalled that though the government of The Gambia was formally notified of the action and served all legal processes, it neither appeared in court nor filed any processes in its defence against the action, even though it was subpoenaed five times for this purpose.
On June 5, 2008 the ECOWAS Court gave a judgement in favour of Chief Ebrimah Manneh, declaring that his arrest and detention, since 2006 without trial or a court order, was a violation of his fundamental human right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; and proceeded to make the following orders:
1. That the government of The Gambia release Chief Ebrimah Manneh forthwith.
2. That the government of The Gambia pay to Chief Ebrimah Manneh, as compensation for arbitrary arrest and detention, the sum of US$100,000.00.
This judgment was served on the government of The Gambia, but to date it has flagrantly refused to abide by its terms, although the Republic of The Gambia is a signatory to the ECOWAS Treaty and revised Treaty, to the Protocol establishing the Community Court of Justice and to the Supplementary Protocol.
Additionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), at its 44th ordinary session in Abuja in November 2008, adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in The Gambia, and called for the immediate and unconditional release of all victims of enforced disappearances - including Chief Ebrimah Manneh.
We, the signatories of the present statement, are concerned about The Gambian Government's nonchalant attitude and constant disregard of decisions of regional mechanisms, the treaties and protocols of which it has ratified and wish to call on The Gambia to respect its obligation under international law and to take immediate steps to comply with the ECOWAS court judgement.
Arab Archives Institute
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies
Center for Journalism and Public Ethics
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centre algérien pour la défense et la promotion de la liberté de la presse
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social
Exiled Journalists Network
Federation of Nepali Journalists
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Freedom of Expression Institute
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad
International Federation of Journalists
International Press Institute
Journaliste en danger
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Islands News Association
Public Association "Journalists"
Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay
Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Thai Journalists Association
West African Journalists Association
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee