By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned the United Nations, UN, Working Group over the arbitrary detention, torture, and other ill-treatment of journalists, Omoyele Sowore, and four other activists.
SERAP said: “The Working Group should request the Nigerian authorities to withdraw the bogus charges against Sowore and four other activists, and to immediately and unconditionally release them.”
In the petition dated January 4, 2021, and made available to the media on Tuesday, by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The detention of Sowore and four other activists constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty because it does not have any legal justification. The detention also does not meet minimum international standards of due process.”
According to SERAP: “The arrest, continued detention and torture and ill-treatment of Mr Sowore and four other activists solely for peacefully exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is a flagrant violation of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended) and international human rights law. They are now facing bogus charges simply for exercising their human rights.”
The petition addressed to Mr. José Guevara Bermúdez Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, read in part: “The Human Rights Committee has interpreted this right to mean that procedures for carrying out legally authorized deprivation of liberty should also be established by law and State parties should ensure compliance with their legally prescribed procedures.”
“Pursuant to the mandate of the Working Group, the “Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council” and the publication “Working with the UN Human Rights Programme, a Handbook for Civil Society”, SERAP, a non-governmental human rights organization, can provide information on a specific human rights case or situation in a particular country, or on a country’s laws and practices with human rights implications.”
“SERAP, therefore, argues that the case adequately satisfies the requirements by which to submit an individual complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”
“SERAP is therefore seeking an opinion from the Working Group finding the continuing detention of Sowore and four other activists to be arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international law.”
“Accordingly, it is hereby requested that the Working Group consider this Individual Complaint a formal request for an opinion of the Working Group pursuant to Resolution 1997/50 of the Commission on Human Rights, as reiterated by Resolutions 2000/36, 2003/31, and Human Rights Council Resolutions 6/4, 15/18, 20/16, and 24/7.”
“SERAP respectfully requests the Working Group to initiate the procedure involving the investigation of individual cases toward reaching an opinion declaring the detention of Mr Sowore and four other activists to be arbitrary and in violation of international human rights law. To this end, SERAP will pursue the regular communications procedure before the Working Group in order to have the ability to provide comments on any response by the Nigerian government.”
SERAP recalled that on the midnight of 1st January 1, 2021, Sowore and four other activists were arrested by the officers of Nigeria Police Force, particularly men dispatched from Apo Division, Abuja, at the #CrossoverWithProtest, a planned procession across the country on New Year Eve.
The organisation continued,” They were reportedly subjected to severe torture and other ill-treatment, and Sowore was left with bruises in his nose and all over his body in an apparently the use of excessive force by the police officers.
“Sowore and four other activists were arraigned at the Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 2 on Monday, 4th January 2021 on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and attempting to incite others. Sowore denied all the charges, but the Magistrate ordered that he, alongside other activists, be remanded in Kuje Prison. He was denied access to his friends and family for days. The authorities have also refused to provide him with medical attention despite overt marks of torture and other ill-treatment he reportedly suffered.”