Hawa Sibally, lawyer, the Gambia

Legal Training Case Study: Hawa Kuru Sisay-Sabally

Hawa is a prominent Gambian lawyer, who has many years of experience in human rights work. She has acted as legal counsel for the Gambia Press Union (GPU) for several years and follows her interest in protecting all of the freedoms that should be respected by constitutional law and also international human rights law and recently represented the GPU in a Supreme Court case that led to defamation being decriminalised in the Gambia. Hawa attended the litigation surgery organised by MLDI in the Gambia, which as she says “broadened our horizons” and “exceeded my expectations”.

Since attending the training she has worked on challenging laws concerning freedom of assembly, and is planning to pursue litigation in international courts. The training provided by MLDI, supplied her with “knowledge and confidence of litigating outside national jurisdictions and making use of regional courts like ECOWAS and the African Court. It really changed my perception on what it meant to take cases there – before I thought it was extremely difficult – I feel the training removed this barrier, I now feel confident to be able to litigate at these courts”.

She added that the materials offered at the training were extremely useful, “I have drafted a private members’ bill with the GPU concerning sedition to remove this law and take it to the national assembly… The resource material is extremely useful for this.” She also said she plans to share the materials with human rights organisations in the Gambia for their own training.

Hawa hopes to reach more people with future trainings and materials, as “a lot of up and coming younger lawyers are interested in this subject.” She also felt that the network of lawyers interested in human rights and freedom of expression that she had built during her career has been reinforced and re-motivated after the training.

In the future Hawa aims to continue working on issues relating to freedom of expression, such as sedition and freedom of information in the Gambia.

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