President Yaya Jammeh has presided over the West African country of The Gambia for 22 years, since coming to power by military coup. His rule has been characterized by the imprisonment, torture, extrajudicial execution, and forced disappearances of citizens and journalists. Musa Saidykhan is one of these journalists.
On 28 March 2008, Musa was arrested at The Independent newspaper during a media crackdown in the lead up to national elections. He spent three weeks in detention, enduring brutal torture, including being stabbed by a bayonet and having electric shocks applied to his genitals.
Musa bears the physical scars left by the agents of The Gambia’s notorious National Intelligence Agency today. After one of his children caught a glimpse of the damage and asked what had caused the scars, Musa explained, “ I could not lie to him. I told him that I was the victim of torture…he was so frustrated and angry…and that was too difficult for me.” The hidden scars have continued to haunt Musa and his family, even after they found refuge in the United States.
Given the reality of systemic impunity for such attacks in the Gambia, Musa sought out IFEX member the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) to bring his case to the regional West African court system, also referred to as the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice. In one sense, it was a success. The court ruled against The Gambia, and ordered that reparations be paid to Musa Saidykhan. However, five years later, the Gambia has yet to comply, and lobbying for their fulfillment of their obligations continues.
The fight against impunity doesn’t necessarily end with a court ruling; sometimes, this is just the beginning.