Posts Tagged ‘judiciary’

Nigerian NGO writes open letter to new President Muhammadu Buhari

May 29, 2019

On 29 May, 2019 Kolawole Oluwadare, Deputy Director of the NGO SERAP wrote to Buhari to request “To Make Every Day Of The Remainder Of Your Stay In Aso Rock A Rule Of Law Day”.

Re: Request To Make Every Day Of The Remainder Of Your Stay In Aso Rock A Rule Of Law Day’

Your Excellency,

Ahead of your inauguration and the start of your second term in office today, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is writing to urge you to publicly commit to making every day of the remainder of your stay in Aso Rock a ‘Rule of Law’ day, including by ensuring every segment of your government’s daily operations is lawful and rule-of-law compliant, for the sake of fairness, justice, your legacy as president, and the success of your anti-corruption agenda, which has remained stuck in limbo principally because of persistent disobedience of decisions of Nigerian courts.

SERAP is a non-profit, nonpartisan, legal and advocacy organization devoted to promoting transparency, accountability and respect for socio-economic rights in Nigeria. SERAP received the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award in 2014. …..The deficits in the rule of law have been particularly notable in three areas: failure to obey decisions of Nigerian courts, failure to push for transparency in asset declarations by high-ranking government officials and failure to push for unexplained wealth orders against former presidents and former governors and other senior public officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’.

…..Another court order that is yet to be complied with is the order for the release of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, from unlawful detention, obtained by human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana. Persistent disobedience of decisions of our courts by the government has opened the way for many state governors to do the same within their states including by using anti-media laws to suppress the civic space, target journalists and human rights defenders, grant to themselves pensions for life and commit grand corruption and other appalling atrocities……Ignoring or refusing to obey decisions of our courts is implicitly rendering the judiciary powerless to enforce constitutional and legal rights, violating separation of powers, undermining the rule of law, and ultimately, raising serious question marks on the government’s commitment to fight grand corruption…

Democracy is an inherent element of the rule of law, and obeying decisions of the courts, pushing for transparency of high-ranking government officials and going after former senior officials suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ are closely connected with the existence and consolidation of democracy, good governance and development.

SERAP therefore urges you to use the opportunity of your second term to begin to implement your oft-expressed commitment to the rule of law by immediately obeying decisions of Nigerian courts, promoting transparency in asset declarations by publishing widely details of your assets declaration, encouraging Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to do the same and instructing all your ministers to publish their asset declarations.

SERAP also urges you to immediately instruct your next Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to pursue unexplained wealths court orders against all former presidents (and their estates), former governors, former presidents of the Senate and former speakers of the House of Representatives aimed at forcing those of them suspected of living on proceeds of corruption and ‘dirty money’ to reveal sources of their fortune or risk forfeiting it.

Novelty: on-line training in human rights for Jamaican judiciary

April 23, 2019

Judges participating in break out groups at the Workshop on International Human Rights Online Training Course for the Jamaican Judiciary for the Presentation of the Online Training Platform last Thursday (11 April)

Caribbean News reports on 22 April 2019 that judges in Jamaica now have an interactive online platform offering resources and self-paced learning opportunities on international human rights law. The online platform is sponsored by United Nations Jamaica and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in collaboration with the Judicial Education Institute and the Court Management Services. The platform was launched 11 April in Kingston by Chief Justice Bryan Sykes and senior human rights adviser George Abualzulof representing the United Nations resident coördinator to Jamaica.

The Chief Justice noted that “the online training platform on international human rights provides the opportunity to be aware of current and new ways of thinking about human rights and how it applies in different circumstances. It also gives us the opportunity to be aware of what is happening in other parts of the world on this very important issue.

The UN’s senior human rights adviser described the online platform as “marking a milestone in the development of professional training capacity in the administration of justice,”..

The online training platform offers modular training with an emphasis on international human rights; human rights of persons deprived of liberty; rights to a fair trial; and international human rights law. Judges learn at their own pace in a collegial environment where peers can learn while holding discussions on human rights law and standards.

‘media framing’ and the independence of the judiciary: the case of water boarding

April 30, 2012

What follows are my  SPEAKING NOTES ON THE OCCASION OF THE NJCM-THOOLEN AWARD  on Thursday 26 April 2012, the Hague. At this gathering of the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (NJCM) I had the honor to hand over the award for the best master thesis on human rights. 

Dear friends,

When the Dutch Lawyers Committee, in 2005, decided to make an award in my name, I was most touched, especially as they had apparently dropped the requirement that I should die first.  Being alive has the additional advantage that on occasion I will be able to hand over the award myself, which I will do with the greatest pleasure in a few moments. This pleasure is the greater as the winning master paper touched on a topic very close to my heart: the role of the media or as it is sometimes referred to the “Fourth Estate”. There is some controversy about who exactly coined the term, but the most telling statement comes from Oscar Wilde who wrote: “Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. …”. That was said in 1981 and it is hard to imagine that that Oscar Wilde would come to a different conclusion more than a century later.

Spinning (an important element in the toolkit of media framing) has become a profession and the title ‘spin doctor’ is quite appropriate as the results are indeed often doctored. There are surely great historical cases that we cannot recognise because we ourselves have been successfully framed; who knows what positive image Attila the Hun could have enjoyed if only his PR people had done a more professional job. To take a more serious and recent case: let’s look at the so-called ‘failure’ of the UN in Somalia. This was a combined UN-US operation with a humanitarian mandate. When in October 1993, 18 U.S. Rangers were killed in a fierce battle with Aideed’s forces and television showed the body of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets, American public opinion overnight turned against further U.S. involvement in Somalia and Clinton pulled out all troops soon afterwards. Although the Rangers were part of Washington’s own separate Somalia operation, and the US did not want to function under UN command, the incident was played and replayed as a major “UN failure.” The UN was widely, and wrongly, blamed for the gruesome deaths of the U.S. Rangers, despite the fact that they were not part of the UN operation, something that President Clinton finally acknowledged in 1996. Yet most people around the worlds continue to hold the UN responsible. I am afraid that each of us can probably come up with a favorite case of the media having got the better of the truth but that should not be tonight’s debate.

Laura Henderson in her paper “Tortured reality” has gone one important step further. She has investigated how media framing of waterboarding affects judicial independence. She had to limit herself to the US judiciary and to the specific case of ‘waterboarding’ in order to create an environment stable enough to draw some statistical conclusions. Her research is done very neatly. She makes clear that the concept of independence of the judiciary has always been defined broadly and not just as a prohibition of interference by the state, although that remains the classical background.  Cases of media pressure are dealt with in jurisprudence but they have always been considered in the context of an independent judge who is well-trained and not easily swayed by what the flimsy press has to say. The little jurisprudence there is does not contemplate a case of wilful, orchestrated influencing of all the media with the purpose of changing the perception and language of an existing concept.

What makes the study of Henderson stand out that it exactly tries pin down to what extent this has happened with the question whether the technique of ‘waterboarding’ changed in the minds of the judges after the 11 September watershed (no pun intended). The torrent of rhetoric not only framed everything in a ‘war’ context but also specifically tried to downplay the labelling of waterboarding as torture. And she did find the evidence. I will not reveal it all – you have to read for yourself the whole article once the NJCM has rightly published it. Laura herself indicates that further work is needed on how the independence of the judiciary is undermined by media framing and I hope that will be the case. She also gives some very useful indications of how the media framing could be countered, e.g. by strengthening the pluriformity of the media and raising the awareness of the judiciary. She describes her recommendations as ‘simple, yet effective”.  Here I beg to differ. There is nothing simple about changing the media landscape, especially if one adds the television and social media, which her study understandably had to leave out. The magnitude and multitude of media is such that no-one can really do much about it. All recent studies on the effect of the internet on our information intake show that they tend to solidify the dominant opinions/news/books etc, while giving great potential to small niche items, including the nutty and the genial. What gets squeezed is the moderate, considered, well-argued, balanced stuff in the middle. My fear is that the voice of the NJCM may well have the qualities described above!

In the end there can be only one winner. A feature of almost any award and painfully brought home two days ago in Geneva where I was for the announcement of the 3 nominees for 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. All 3 nominees are extremely courageous Human Rights Defenders (Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, the multimedia monk form Cambodia, and Shirin Ebadi’s former lawyer: Nasrin Sotoudeh) and the Jury making the final choice on 2 October will have a hard time.

Still, the hard choices have been made already for the NJCM Thoolen Award – may I take this occasion to thank the Jury and Franka for their excellent work – and I am proud to hand over the prizes to the 3 finalists.