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IFJ and Hydara Family Win Court case against Gambia for Murdered Journalist

07 July 2014

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas) has ruled that the Government of Gambia failed to properly investigate the murder of prominent journalist Deyda Hydara who was killed in 2004.

In a judgment rendered on 10 June 20914, the Court further found Gambia in breach of its obligations to enforce the right to life and the right to press freedom which entrenched impunity by failing to investigate attacks by the State’s operatives on journalists.

The case was brought in 2011 jointly by representatives of the Hydara family and the Dakar- based Office of the International Federation of Journalists for Africa. The victim was a respected journalist and editor-in-chief of Le Point newspaper. He was gunned down in November 2004 in a drive by shooting as he stood with employees of his newspaper. Hydara had received death threats prior to his murder and was believed to have been under surveillance by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The court noted that the police undertook initial investigations in the aftermath of the murder before the NIA took over. But, apart from the report issued in February 2005, there has been no further investigation into the killing ever since.

A panel of three judges dismissed the government’s defence that it carried out a proper investigation. In particular, they were highly critical of the failure to conduct ballistic examination of the bullets found in Hydara’s body as well as on the gun recovered on the suspects They also held that the NIA lacked impartiality and should not have been in charge of the investigation after Hydara’s colleagues who survived the attack had complained about the intimidation and threats from the agency.

The court further recalled, in respect to press freedom in Gambia, its earlier rulings in which it had found against the Government of Gambia in cases which ‘ involved journalists who suffered at the hands of state operatives during the where it had found evidence of journalists “suffering at the hands of State operatives in the course of performing their legitimate functions.”

It awarded the Hydara family and the IFJ 50.000 USD in damages and 10.000 USD in costs.