The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) today commended the rulingof the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, sitting in Abuja, Nigeria on 10 June, concerning the case of Deyda Hydara versus The Gambia.
According to independent sources, the defendant state produced Captain Lamin K. Saine as their witness. Captain Saine was a senior official at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and was tasked by Presidential orders to head the investigations. He is now a nominated member of the National Assembly.
During his cross examination in chief, Captain Lamine K. Saine explained his background in the Gambian security services, where he said he was trained by the US FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and British MI5 (Military Intelligence, section 5), amongst others. He defended the investigations, claiming that they had left no stone unturned. He argued that it was prompt, that he was independent, and that they had included the family. He said that he had been assisted by an officer from the FBI who congratulated him on the investigation.
He was cross-examined by Counsel Dindam Killi for two hours. On cross examination, he admitted that he in fact knew the deceased very well, as Deyda Hydara had edited a book for him, and he had regularly visited the Point’s offices, at a time when he was working for the NIA. He admitted that he was fully aware of the two previous judgments of the ECOWAS Court finding that the NIA had colluded in the torture of journalists. He dismissed numerous reports that journalists had been targeted for violence as unfounded.
He admitted that there were only 22 days between the opening of the NIA investigation and the taking of the last witness statement, but insisted that the investigation was still open, and that anything relevant would be forwarded to the appropriate authorities.
Deyda Hydara, a prominent journalist, former editor and co- proprietor of The Point Newspaper in The Gambia was gunned down in a drive-by shooting by unknown assailants on 16 December, 2004. His killers are still at large.
The ECOWAS Court ruled that the National Intelligence Agency did not properly investigate Hydara’s murder as neither ballistic nor bullets and weapons tests were carried out. “FAJ has always stated that the NIA was not the appropriate body to carry out such an investigation. This ruling is an unambiguous defeat for the Gambian authorities,” said FAJ President, Mohamed Garba,
“We welcome the decision of the Court to award US $50,000 to Deyda Hydara's family as compensation for the government's failure to effectively investigate the murder, and US $10,000 for legal costs,” commented Gabriel Baglo, IFJ Africa director.
It could be recalled that in February an earlier hearing took place in Lomé, Togo. The Court heard the Deyda Hydara family representative, as first applicant, and the Republic of The Gambia as the defendant. After the initial deliberations, the case was adjourned to Tuesday, 11th March for the hearing of another witness.
The IFJ-Africa Office as second applicant has sided with the Hydara Family represented by his son, Deyda Hydara Jr, currently an engineer in London. Deyda Jr told the court that he was 11 years old when his father was gunned down. He called on the court to allow him to go back to The Gambia, by guaranteeing his security.