Freedom of Expression under threat in The Gambia

When a High Court in The Gambia, a small West African country convicted Amadou Scattred Janneh, a former Minister of Information and Communication, and six others, for distributing t-shirts calling for democratic change, it was clear that the assault on freedom of expression that country has assumed wider dimension.
Dr Amadou Scrattred Janneh, 48, was arrested last year alongside Michel C. Ucheh Thomas, a Nigerian, and two other Gambian youths, Ebrima Jallow and Modou Keita for printing and distribution of t-shirts bearing inscriptions: Coalition for Change The Gambia, End Dictatorship Now, which the government of Yahya Jammeh said was done with intent to overthrow his APRC government. Janneh and his co-accused persons were subsequently charged with treason and put on trial. They pleaded not guilty.
But, Justice Emmanuel Nkea, a Nigerian last month sentenced the country’s former information minister to life imprisonment. The trial judge said he was ‘satisfied with the volume of evidences produced by the prosecution’, saying ‘Dr Janneh’s intention was to oust president Jammeh by mass demonstration which was unlawful’.
The court’s decision is riddled with lots of violations of international covenants and potential diplomatic implications between Nigeria and Gambia both countries former British colonies and signatories to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Without second-guessing Gambian laws, the Justice Nkea, a Nigerian knows that the offence committed by the former Information Minister and other will not be considered an illegal act in Nigeria or any constitutional government for that matter.

President Jammeh Dr. Amadou Janneh jailed for life
By this judgment, Justice Nkea has further put Gambian-Nigerian relations in jeopardy because Gambian citizens frustrated by President Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship view some Nigerian judges deployed to support Gambia’s judicial system as mere hatchet men of the weird president.
Rather than bequeath the people of Gambia with a Kangaroo judiciary that act in unison with the power-drunk president Jammeh to undermine freedom of expression, judges in that country should at the minimum respect international covenants in their decisions. Banjul’s success in democratization will depend on a strong rule of law where arbitrariness is denounced and equality before the law becomes the order of the day.

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Posted by on Feb 11 2012. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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