OPINION: ECOWAS COURT WILL REJECT MELVILLE ROBERTS’ CASE!
Firstly, I think it is great that Gambians are using the courts more nowadays if they feel that their rights have been infringed. That is the ‘Rule of Law’ and for that reason alone I applaud Mr. Roberts for seeking justice from the court. That said, I think Mr. Roberts went to the wrong court!
I say “wrong court” because international courts such as Ecowas Court and the European Court of Human Rights (of which UK is still a member) require a litigant to exhaust domestic remedies first. For example, I cannot take UK to the European Court before I have gone to the British High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. If I go to the European Court before I have gone to all these British courts, the European Court will reject my case. I have not read anywhere that Mr. Roberts has filed a case in Gambian courts and, once the Gambian Attorney General points this out to the Ecowas Court, I think the case filed against Gambia by Mr. Roberts will be rejected.
Secondly, post Yahya Jammeh dictatorship,Gambian courts have been determined to hold to account those in authority who infringe citizens’ rights (from a certain Judge Jaiteh of the Banjul High Court alone I have read two such judgments recently and I am sure that there have been others). This will not be lost on Ecowas either and they will tell Mr. Roberts that Gambian courts are willing and capable of addressing his grievances.
Thirdly, the substance of Mr. Roberts’ case raises some difficulties. Mr. Roberts’ problems did not start with the Gambian state abusing his rights; the problems started withallegations of crime by private citizens. The state (in the form of the police) has a duty to investigate allegations of crime. The fact that allegations were made and investigated cannot be the fault of the state in anyway. In UK those who make allegations of a crime to the police, even maliciously, have virtual immunity – because it is in the public interest for people to report anything to the police(House of Lords in Hill – UK Supreme Court replaced the House of Lords in 2000).
But those who made the allegations against Mr. Roberts first made those allegations onFacebook … and they can be sued for any libellous/defamatory allegations they made on Facebook (it does not matter that they later made the same allegations to the police … Facebook allegations have no immunity). So Mr. Roberts should sue those women in Gambian courts.
Fourthly, the Gambian police may have a good reason for not publishing the investigation report into the allegations against Mr. Roberts. Here in UK government policy is that investigation reports into allegations of rape by women will not be published … the public interest policy being that women must not be deterred from reporting rape and assault by the threat of publicity. So the Gambian police may cite those women’s right to privacy. BUT, and it is a big but, if Mr. Roberts sues the women in the Gambian High Court, the court will almost certainly order the police to release their investigation report to the court and to Mr. Roberts lawyer … to ensure a fair hearing.
Fifth, and finally the case of the missing jewellery: again I see no reason why Mr. Roberts cannot sue The Gambian police in Gambian courts for the return of these jewellery.
In conclusion, I think these hurdles are insurmountable and Mr. Roberts case will be rejected by the Ecowas Court.
Notting Hill, London.