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 ECOWAS COURT DISMISSES ELECTION-RELATED CASE IN THE GAMBIA


The ECOWAS Court of Justice has on Tuesday 10 2017 dismissed for lack of jurisdiction,  a suit filed by the President of one of Gambia’s opposition parties in conjunction with a former Minister of Information, alleging that the 7th July 2015 Election Amendment Act passed by the country’s National Assembly violated their fundamental human rights.


Delivering judgement in the case filed on 23rd August 2016 by Mr Omar Jallow, former President of the Peoples, Progressive Party and Mr Amadou Scattred, a former minister of information, a three member panel of Judges held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate on electoral issues of Member States.


 In the suit, the plaintiffs said the amendment which increased the amount for party registration, the number of signatures required for the registration of parties, the registration of membership of a Political Party and the number of constituencies, could lead to a ‘shutdown and de-registration of opposition parties’ as it was not subjected to public debate.


In the judgement which was delivered by Justice Friday Chijioke Nwoke, the court held that electoral matters fell within the jurisdiction of national courts of Member States  and that the regional court could not entertain the case as long as there is no established human rights violation.


Counsel to the plaintiffs, Barrister Roseline Okoro had argued that the amendments violated their right to freely participate in the government of their country and sought an order of the court directing the government to amend or repeal the Election Amendment Act of 2015 so as to allow them to participate in the government of their country.


But the defendant, led by Barrister M.D. Abubakar, contended that the amendment applied to all the political parties without discrimination and denied the plaintiffs allegation that it was not subjected to public debate or scrutiny as it was based on a proposal made by the Independent Electoral Commission of the Gambia.


Moreover, he averred that the Electoral Amendment Bill was published in the government’s Gazette on 1st June 2015 before being introduced to the National Assembly on 7th of July 2015 in accordance with the requirements of section 101(3) of the constitution of the Gambia, adding that the Act has been operational for more than one year unchallenged by the Plaintiffs.


The Defendant also denied the allegation that the government used government administrative buildings and resources to fund the ruling party and further states that the activities, facilities and logistics needs of all the political parties in The Gambia were funded from the resources of the political parties and not from state resources among others. He therefore urged the Court to discountenance their prayers