afrol News, 22 September - The torture case against the government of The Gambia, held at the regional ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja, Nigeria, is nearing an end, with a possible last round of evidence proving torture being discussed.
The regional ECOWAS court since 2007 has been occupied with a delicate case that could set new human rights standards in the entire West Africa region. For the first time, a prominent person is taking a nation to the regional court over flagrant human rights abuses.
The ECOWAS court case treats the accusations of Gambian editor Musa Saidykhan, who was editor-in-chief of 'The Independent', a now banned Banjul-based newspaper. As Gambian state security agents in 2006 raided the newspaper, shut it down and threw its staff into jail, Mr Saidykhan says he has proof he was severely tortured during the following detention.
After his release and escape to Senegal, human rights groups and medical teams in Dakar documented his wounds, scars and fractions, gathering large amounts of proof supporting Mr Saidykhan's torture allegations.
In November 2007, Mr Saidykhan with assistance of the Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) filed a torture case against the government of the Gambia at the ECOWAS Community Court. The Gambian journalist at the time was employed as afrol News' West Africa editor, based in the Dakar offices of 'Le Quotidien'.
"After frantic efforts to stop the case from proceeding in Abuja, the Gambia government denied arresting me in their statement of defence," Mr Saidykhan told afrol News about how the case started in 2007. "But I had sufficient evidence to prove the government wrong," he added.
Meanwhile, both parties have given their statements and a sentence was originally expected around this time. However, as Gambian authorities had questioned the testimonies of Mr Saidykhan and his physician, the Gambian editor asked the court to amend his statement of claim and provide material evidence to tally with his oral submission.
Mr Saidykhan on 9 July brought the motion to enable him produce the clothes that he wore and his medical records as evidence to the court. On 21 September, at the last court hearing, the Gambian authorities, represented by a team of five defence lawyers, however argued over the amendment for about one and half hours with Mr Saidykhan's team.
The court now is to decide whether it will accept the new evidence during its next session, on 30 September.
Neither the MWFA nor Mr Saidykhan have clear indications on when a sentence will be given by the ECOWAS court, but believe the case is now nearing an end.
Mr Saidykhan and his family meanwhile have been given asylum in the United States. The Gambian editor therefore depends on long and exhausting flights to Nigeria to follow his case against Gambian authorities.
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