Manneh v. The Gambia

(2008) AHRLR 171 (ECOWAS 2008)
Download Judgment: English

Plaintiff alleged that his arrest and continued detention without trial by the National Intelligence Agency of The Gambia violated his rights under the following articles 6 (right to personal liberty), 4 (right to life), 5 (prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment), and 7 (right to fair trial) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the “Charter”).

Plaintiff, a Gambian national, was a journalist for the Daily Observer, a newspaper based in Banjul, Gambia. He was arrested at his place of work without a warrant or transparent reasons, was not accused or charged, and was detained at a police station in “dehumanizing” conditions. He and other detainees were made to sleep on the bare floor in overcrowded cells. He was also held in solitary confinement and denied access to medical care. Defendant ignored plaintiff’s counsel’s letter asking for release.

Defendant refused to participate in proceedings before the Court.

The Court held that the arrest and continued detention of the Plaintiff violated Articles 6 (right to personal liberty) and 7(1) (right to fair trial) of the Charter and therefore declared that the Plaintiff was entitled to the restoration of his personal liberty and $100,000 USD in damages.

With regards to Article 6 of the Charter (guaranteeing the right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention), the Court found that, in light of witness testimony evidencing that the Plaintiff was arrested without subsequently being charged, the that Plaintiff had arbitrarily deprived of liberty.  The Court also found that, as the plaintiff had been detained for over a year without a trial or charge, his rights under Article 7(1) (guaranteeing the right to due process) of the Charter had been violated.

The Court also held that, under Article 2 (guaranteeing non-discrimination in enjoyment of Charter rights) and 6 of the Charter, the plaintiff was “entitled to the restoration of his personal liberty and security of his person”.

The Court then considered whether the Plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages (meant to deter the defendant’s future bad behavior) in addition to general damages and, based on prior case precedent in other international human rights tribunals, determined that where a human rights violation has been committed  compensation should just be awarded to ensure “’just satisfaction’ and no more.”

“The plaintiff was arrested on 11 July 2006 and has since been detained without trial and no criminal offence known to the law of the Republic of The Gambia has been levelled against him for a period exceeding one year. Holding a person for over a year without trial will be an unreasonable period unless proper and distinct justification is provided.” Para 22.

“Thus it is clear that the object of human rights instruments is the termination of human rights abuses and in cases where the abuse has already taken place, restoration of the rights in question. Compensation is awarded in order to ensure ‘just satisfaction’ and no more. It is not the object of human rights instruments, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on which this application is premised to award punitive damages against offenders of the instruments. This by no means deprives a successful human rights victim from claiming monetary compensation in appropriate cases, particularly where special damages are pleaded and proven at the trial.” Para. 39.

“The Court has found that the applicant was arrested on 11 July 2006 by the police force of The Gambia and has since been detained incommunicado, and without being charged. He has not been told the reasons for his arrest, let alone the fact that it was in accord with a previously laid down law. The Court holds these acts clearly violate the provisions of articles 2, 6 and 7(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.” Para 41.

View Summary as PDF