By Omar Bah
AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organisation that exposes injustices sustaining HIV, has accused Equatorial Guinea of refusing to serve exiled former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh with notice of a civil lawsuit by survivors of his controversial AIDS treatment.
“One ruthless dictator is protecting another ruthless dictator. The international community must not stand silent in the face of such lawless behaviour,” said Sarah Bosha, AIDS-Free World’s legal and research advisor on HIV and human rights in a statement published on its website.
Sarah said on 28 October, the government of The Gambia transmitted the notice of the civil suit and related documents to Equatorial Guinea’s embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from where they would be delivered to Jammeh.
“The government of Equatorial Guinea responded to The Gambia on November 19, indicating that they could not serve Jammeh because he was ‘unavailable’, which represents an express refusal to serve the legal papers,” she added.
The legal papers would formally notify Jammeh of a civil lawsuit filed at the High Court of The Gambia by three survivors of Jammeh’s HIV and AIDS treatment programme.
The suit, which was filed in May 2018, is supported by AIDS-Free World in partnership with the Gambian-based Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA).
Combeh Gaye of the Gambian law firm Antouman A.B. Gaye & Co. is representing the three claimants.
Bosha noted that the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is planning to vote today on a US$280 million loan guarantee for Equatorial Guinea. A consortium of human rights and good governance organizations has called for a delay in the vote, citing the Obiang government’s endemic human rights abuses, corruption, and mismanagement.
“There are many reasons to delay the vote,” said Bosha. “This is another. The refusal to serve Jammeh offers stark proof that Equatorial Guinea refuses to follow international norms or respect the rights of Jammeh’s victims to justice.”
AIDS-Free World is also calling for the African Union to convene an emergency meeting to insist that Equatorial Guinea complete service of the papers.
The claimants are seeking damages for harm suffered and a declaration from the High Court that they suffered cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment at the hands of Jammeh.
“The action of Equatorial Guinea is another insult to the victims,” said Bosha. “But we are determined to see that Jammeh is brought to account.”
In addition to the civil lawsuit against Jammeh, the three survivors have asked authorities in The Gambia to revoke the licenses of two medical doctors who directed the “treatment programme.”
The survivors have filed complaints with The Gambia Medical and Dental Council against Dr. Tamsir Mbowe and Dr. Malick Njie. The Council has yet to take action against the doctors, who are still practicing medicine in The Gambia.
Victims Centre reacts
Reacting to the latest development, the chairperson of the Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations in The Gambia Sheriff Kijera said: “It is quite disappointing hearing the Equatorial Guinea government’s refusal to hand Yahya Jammeh the notice about a civil lawsuit that has been filed by three of Jammeh’s victims who have undergone the President’s fake Aids treatment. But it is not a surprise also because we can see that a dictator is backing a fellow dictator.”
“I think we need to mobilise support from the government of the Gambia and the international community including the AU, EU and UN to put pressure on the Equatorial Guinea government to ensure that Jammeh is served and face justice because these people have suffered so much pain and suffering as a result of Jammeh’s forced Aids treatment programme,” he said.
However, Kijera said although the Victims Centre is not part of the civil lawsuit, they are in support of the decision of the three victims and “we will give all our efforts to make sure that Jammeh faces justice. We will engage Aids-Free World and IHRD to see whether we can explore other adventures to ensure that Equatorial complies.”