The Committee to Protect Journalists has noted that “more can and should be done” to get justice for slain Gambian journalist, Deyda Hydara, eight years on. “Colleagues, family and campaigners around the world who have sought justice for Hydara have been met with open defiance and disrespect by Jammeh,” the rights group noted in a blog post by Elisabeth Witchel, CPJ Impunity Campaign Consultant. Adding that with so much time passed, it might seem there is little to be done to achieve justice. “But this is not so. Far more can and should be done.”
In February 2011, the Gambia government invited the UN to investigate the disappearance of Gambian journalists. “The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed to launch an inquiry earlier this year (2012), but the process is stalled since Jammeh has failed to act on the UNHRC’s request to name an official point person,” the rights campaigner reports, insisting that an inquiry should move ahead regardless of whether Jammeh gives full cooperation. “This year the U.N. adopted a plan of action committing to coordinated and concerted action to protect journalists and address impunity. This would be one immediate way to follow through.”
“Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must speak out and show that Gambia’s record of human rights violations, abuse of journalists, disregard for justice, and flouting of its regional obligations renders it unfit to be a member of the organization. In 2011, the Open Society Justice Initiative filed a lawsuit with the ECOWAS court against the Gambian government on behalf of the Hydara family, arguing that the Gambian government failed to conduct a proper investigation into his shooting and that it contributed to the attack on his life by tolerating a general climate of impunity for violence against critics of the regime. The regional tribunal already found the government responsible for the disappearance of Manneh and the torturing of another journalist, Musa Saidykhan. The Gambia has not complied with either.
Elisabeth Witchel also suggested that governments around the world providing aid and support in all forms should be reminded to raise the issue of Deyda and demand a full investigation in line with international standards. “Governments providing aid (Taiwan) to the Gambia as well training and support to its military (United States, United Kingdom) must be reminded to raise this case and demand its full investigation according to international standards. In 2010, the European Union cancelled some 15 million euros ($19.7 million) of support due to human rights and governance concerns. Taiwan now bolsters the West African nation–one of few countries that recognize Taiwan’s statehood. If Taiwan condemned Gambia’s impunity record in this and other cases, it would be difficult for the Gambia to ignore.
She further noted that concerned individuals should contact their own political representatives–congressmen or parliamentarians, among others–to press them to raise the case in international forums directly with the Gambia and with leadership of other states of influence. “Individuals can also sign up with CPJ’s Speak Justice Now campaign to be heard on this and so many other cases of journalists who have been murdered without consequence.”
“And finally, Gambian authorities should do their jobs. Hydara’s case is solvable. There are witnesses–two of whom were injured with Hydara at the time of the attack but never interviewed–forensics, and a body of journalistic work to examine. But not even a post-mortem examination has been produced for the journalist’s family. The only report made public in 2005 was described by colleagues as more of an indictment of Hydara’s character than an investigation.
“Recently, Jammeh showed he is not impervious to pressure when he declared a moratorium on executions of death-row prisoners following an international outcry against the killing of nine inmates by firing squad. Jammeh has deflected questions about Deyda Hydara for nearly a decade but if we keep asking them from all sides, we might get some answers,” she concluded.