Chief Ebrimah Manneh v The Republic of The Gambia Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWA), suit ECW/CCJ/APP/04/07, judgment ECW/CCJ/JUD/03/08, 5 June 2008 Judges: Benin, Daboya, Tall 1. The plaintiff is a community citizen, a national of the Republic of The Gambia . The defendant is a member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). 2. Femi Falana with Chinedum Agwarambo (Mrs) and Sola Egbeyinka appeared for the plaintiff. Defendant failed to enter an appearance. 3. The plaintiff has come to this Court seeking the following reliefs: 1. 2. 3. 4. (a) A declaration that his arrest by the National Intelligence Agency of The Gambia at the premises of The Daily Observer in Banjul on 11 July, 2006, is illegal and unlawful as it violates article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which guarantees his human right to personal liberty. (b) A declaration that his detention on 11 July 2006, and his continual detention since then without trial is unlawful and a violation of his right as guaranteed by articles 4, 5 and 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. (c) An order mandating the defendant and/or its agents to immediately release the plaintiff from custody. (d) US$ 5 000 000 (five million United States dollars) being compensation for the violation of the applicant’s human rights to dignity, liberty and fair hearing. 4. The defendant was first served on 31 May 2007 with the application initiation the proceedings through its High Commission in Abuja, the capital city of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where the Court has its seat and also by registered mail. The defendant failed to file a defence within the thirty day period stipulated for the filing of a defence without assigning any reasons for the failure. The Court served a hearing notice on the defendant through its High Commission in Abuja and by a registered mail on 14 June 2007. The defendant failed to appear in Court on 16 July 2007 when the case was due for hearing. The Court adjourned the case to 26 September 2007 to enable the defendant to enter an appearance and defend the action. A hearing notice was served on the defendant on 19 July 2007 through its High Commission in Abuja and by registered mail. Notwithstanding all the efforts of the Court in getting the defendant to take part in the proceedings, the defendant failed to enter an appearance or defend the action. Hence the case was heard on 26 September 2007 without the participation of the defendant. However, by a letter dated 23 August 2007, addressed to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, a copy of which was received by the Court on 28 September 2007, the defendant had decided not to ‘participate or attend proceedings fixed for 26 September 2007’. Due to a change in the composition of the panel members on the case, the case had to be tried de novo. A hearing notice was accordingly sent to the defendant but again they failed to enter appearance on 26 November 2007 when the case was heard. Consequently the case proceeded to trial without the participation of the defendant. Summary of the facts 5. According to the facts contained in the plaintiff’s application, (i) the plaintiff is a community citizen by virtue of his nationality of the Republic of The Gambia . (ii) The plaintiff is a journalist with the Daily Observer newspaper based in Banjul , The Gambia. (iii) The Plaintiff was arrested by two officials of the National Intelligence Agency of The Gambia at the Daily Observer’s premises in Banjul on 11 July 2006 without any warrant of arrest. (iv) The reasons for his arrest have not been disclosed by the government of The Gambia. (v) Efforts by his family, friends and lawyers to know his whereabouts or have access to him have proved futile. (vi) Since his arrest the plaintiff has been detained at the National Intelligence Agency Headquarters, State Central Prison, Kartong, Police Station, Sibanor Police Station, Kuntaur Police Station and Fatoto Police Station. (vii) The plaintiff has not been accused or charged with the commission of any criminal offence. (viii) The conditions under which the plaintiff is detained are dehumanizing as detainees are made to sleep on bare floor in overcrowded cells. (ix) The plaintiff has been held in solitary confinement and denied access to adequate medical care. (x) The plaintiff’s counsel’s letter dated 16 March, 2007 demanding for the release of the plaintiff was ignored by the defendant.