Global Freedom of Expression

The State v. Momar Sowe and Alieu Sarr

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Non-verbal Expression
  • Date of Decision
    July 30, 2015
  • Outcome
    Acquittal, Judgment in Favor of Defendant
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Gambia, Africa
  • Judicial Body
    Appellate Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Content Regulation / Censorship, Gender Expression, Indecency / Obscenity
  • Tags

Content Attribution Policy

Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:

  • Attribute Columbia Global Freedom of Expression as the source.
  • Link to the original URL of the specific case analysis, publication, update, blog or landing page of the down loadable content you are referencing.

Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

In this case, three Gambian men were acquitted after being charged under Gambia’s anti-homosexuality laws, specifically, “aggravated homosexuality” which was a new offense established through an amendment to the Gambian criminal code in October of 2014. The Court found that a prima facie case had not been established, and thus, the accused men were acquitted.



In this case, three men who had been imprisoned in Banjul, Gambia, for the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” were acquitted and released.

The case began on December 29, 2014, in the Banjul Magistrates court. It was later transferred to the high court where the accused were charged with multiple counts of homosexual acts but denied wrongdoing. As the prosecution had argued that the witnesses in the trial were security personnel whose identity needed to be protected from the public, a closed door trial lasting seven-and-a-half months took place.

Three witnesses were called by the prosecution and filed a written brief stating that there was “no case to answer.” The defense argued that the court could not convict the men based on prosecution witness testimony.



Decision Overview

The judgment was delivered by Justice Abi who held that a “no case to answer submission” may be made when there is no evidence given by the prosecution witnesses or where such evidence is discredited on cross-examination. The judge held that the question that needed to be answered was whether a prima facie case had been made against the accused.

The court examined the statement that had been made by the different prosecution witnesses. The first had said that he was part of the patrol team that arrested and transported the accused to the National Intelligence Agency pending investigations. The second prosecution witness stated that he took statements from the accused persons whilst the third witness told the court that he led the investigation panel and called the accused in for questioning at the NIA. All three stated that that was all they knew about the case.

The Judge held that it was clear that none of the witnesses presented evidence that the accused had committed the acts of which they were accused. Thus, the prosecution failed to prove their case and the accused had to be acquitted and discharged.

“Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.”

“Some information was derived from blogs, bulletin boards, and other similar online sources. Such information may not have been verified, but it should be noted that in countries in which the media or access to the media, including the Internet, are controlled by the government, blogs can be a reliable source of information.”  


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

Although the case does not deal directly with freedom of expression, it is a positive ruling for LGBT human rights in Gambia.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

Have comments?

Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.

Send Feedback