Three victims of a fake AIDS cure created by Gambia’s ex-president sued for damages on Thursday in the first case against Yahya Jammeh to reach national courts since the former leader fled into exile.
The three filed a lawsuit at the High Court in the capital of Banjul on Thursday, said U.S.-based charity AIDS-Free World, which helped them gather evidence.
Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny West African country was marked by accusations of human rights abuses, fled to Equatorial Guinea last year after losing an election.
Ousman Sowe, Lamin Ceesay and Fatou Jatta were among the first Gambians who joined his HIV/AIDS treatment programme in 2007, where they were forced to give up anti-retroviral drugs and drink home-made potions that made them vomit.
Their health worsened, while others in the programme died.
“I believe it is my responsibility to hold Jammeh to account,” said Sowe, a former university lecturer in his 60s. I knew that one day the real story would be told.”
People were afraid to criticise the president when he was in power, the victims said, so doctors and patients publicly declared that his medicines were working.
The programme hampered real HIV/AIDS work in the Gambia, which trails behind other African countries in treatment rates, according to the U.N. agency UNAIDS.