The Gambia government has finally expressed its readiness to compensate the families of Deyda Hydara, Chief Ebrima Manneh and Musa Saidykhan for violation of their rights by Yahya Jammeh’s administration.
The compensation is in fulfilment of the judgments of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in which it ordered the government to pay $50,000 to Deyda’s family, US$100,000 to Chief Manneh’s, and US$200,000 to Musa Saidykhan’s.
The judgments were made in three separate cases brought to the court by the Media Foundation for West Africa on behalf of the victims’ families.
However, the government of former President Jammeh refused to comply with the judgments, despite several calls for the court orders to be heeded.
But at a symposium to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists held yesterday at a hotel in Kololi, the special adviser to the minister of justice said the judgments of the ECOWAS Court will be respected by the new government.
“The Hon. Minister of Justice has commenced negotiations for the fulfilment of the judgements,” Adviser Hussein Thomasi said to the applause of journalists at the symposium. “We are members of ECOWAS so we cannot do anything in contravention of the body.”
The minister of information and communications infrastructure, Demba Ali Jawo, reiterated the Barrow government’s resolve to compensate the families of the three journalists for the misdeeds of the former president.
“We are going to discuss with the families and see how best to work out the modalities of settling the claims,” the minister said.
The late Deyda Hydara, co-founder and editor of The Point newspaper, was gunned down on 16 December, 2004. The ECOWAS Court found The Gambia government guilty of not conducting a proper investigation into his murder thereby allowing a climate of impunity to thrive, thus stifling freedom of expression.
Chief Manneh and Musa Saidykhan were separately arrested and detained by the notorious National Intelligence Agency, now renamed State Intelligence Service, in 2006.
Chief Manneh, who used to work for the Daily Observer newspaper, subsequently disappeared with little trace; he is now feared death. Mr Saidykhan, formerly editor-in-chief of the defunct Independent newspaper, was eventually released after he had been subjected to brutal torture. He now lives in exile in America.
The Media Foundation for West Africa had said that the new government should institute an inquiry into the cases of these journalists, in addition to compensating the families as ordered by the ECOWAS Court.