By Sanna Camara
The Media Foundation for West Africa has today urged ECOWAS to “add much-needed teeth” to its rulings and “impose and enforce sanctions against The Gambia.”
In a statement issued today from the Ghanaian capital Accra, the Foundation said sanctions against The Gambia can increase public faith and trust in the ECOWAS Court as an effective human rights court.
Today marks one year since the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice ordered The Gambia to pay $50,000 in damages to the family of assassinated journalist Deyda Hydara.
Gambia continues to disregard Court judgments
“The Gambia has not complied with this judgment, just as it has not implemented previous Court judgments regarding the enforced disappearance of Ebrima Manneh and the arbitrary arrest and detention and torture of Musa Saidykhan,” the statement said.
The first anniversary of the Hydara decision comes on the heels of the seventh anniversary of the Court’s ruling in favour of Ebrima Manneh.
Despite the final and binding nature of ECOWAS Court decisions, Media Foundation says The Gambia continues to disregard the three Court judgments against it.
“Although ECOWAS has the power to sanction any Member State in violation of its statutory obligations, The Gambia currently faces no sanctions for its persistent non-compliance,” it added.
‘Implement all Court judgments…’
According to Article 77 of the ECOWAS Treaty, sanctions against The Gambia may include suspension of loans, assistance, or participation in ECOWAS activities, among other things.
Today, the MFWA once again calls on The Gambia to implement all Court judgments and pay damages as ordered.
However, The Gambia’s ongoing non-compliance risks delegitimizing the ECOWAS Court’s standing as a promising international justice mechanism. Instead of giving The Gambia an effective free pass, ECOWAS must take action to strengthen the Court to uphold justice, which is also a prerequisite for the promotion of peace and stability in the region.
The MFWA is a regional independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra. It was founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and freedom of the media and of expression in the sub region and beyond.
No proper investigation conducted
On this day last year, the ECOWAS Court found that The Gambia did not conduct a proper investigation into Hydara’s murder and allowed a climate of impunity to thrive.
Furthermore, the Court found that “such impunity has the effect of denying journalists the right to function, thus stifling freedom of expression.”
According to the Court’s judgement, The Gambia has not satisfied its duty to ensure respect for the rights of journalists as directed by Article 66 of the ECOWAS Treaty.
Ultimately, it awarded $50,000 in damages to Hydara’s family for The Gambia’s failure to exercise due diligence in investigating this murder.