Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

UN experts demand release of Nigerian atheist from one-year detention

April 29, 2021

Seven UN human rights experts on Thursday 29 April 2021 demanded the release of a Nigerian atheist and humanist, Mubarak Bala, who has been detained without charge by the police for a year over alleged blasphemy.

The experts’ demand add to calls by many human rights groups, including Amnesty International, in the last one year for the release of the activist who faces death penalty if convicted under the law being operated in many parts of Northern Nigeria.

Mr Bala who is the president of Humanist Association of Nigeria, was arrested at his home in Kaduna State on April 28, 2020 over his Facebook post considered to be critical of Islam. His post reportedly caused outrage among Muslims in many parts of highly conservative northern part of the country.

The detainee whose arrest was prompted by a petition by a lawyer, S.S Umar, backed by some Islamic figures, was later transferred to the neighbouring Kano State.

His whereabouts remained unknown to his family and lawyer for many months before he was later granted access to them.

Delivering judgment in a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed on his behalf, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Inyang Ekwo, on December 21, 2020, declared Mr Bala’s detention illegal and ordered his immediate release.

The court also ruled that the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation, constituted gross infringements of his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement.

It awarded damages of N250,000 damages in his favour.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/458323-alleged-blasphemy-un-experts-demand-release-of-nigerian-atheist-from-one-year-detention.html

https://punchng.com/un-group-kicks-as-atheist-spends-one-year-in-illegal-detention/

Obituary for Innocent Chukwuma, a great human rights defender from Nigeria

April 6, 2021

Wole Ojewale (former Assistant Program Manager at the CLEEN Foundation) wrote on 5 April 2021 in saharareporters a very warm obituary for Innocent Chukwuma who fought for a liberated and egalitarian Nigeria.

“Like many friends, comrades and associates of Innocent Chukwuma; I received the cold message from my former colleague by 12:33am on Sunday morning about the shocking exit of a man considered by many as an iroko tree and a big masquerade in the organized civil society and democracy struggle in Nigeria. My initial contact with Innocent was sometimes in June 2015…[and led to] an extremely impactful relationship I have had with Innocent in the last six years. Innocent represents many things to the diverse individuals and groups he has worked with from his days as a courageous student union activist in the pro-democracy struggle at the University of Nigeria; to his adventure in the human rights movement and the Civil Liberty Organization where he possibly developed strong interest in police reform- a cause that led him to establish CLEEN Foundation in 1998 and a field where he would later emerge as a global thought leader, who is widely respected and sought after. See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/1bc54e6a-4a3a-40f4-b8a3-b0c83af62631

Innocent typified an exceptional breed of change agents imbued with the character, audacity, selflessness, humility and intellectual inspiration to transform a system and lead the society in an upward trajectory. Few stories would suffice to narrate these traits which Innocent was known for. Raised from a very humble beginning in Imo state. Innocent would pass as a typical child that would have been advised and warned by parents to face his study alone and “stay away from trouble”. However, he chose an alternative path to fight for the rights of the common man right from his secondary school days as a house prefect. He once narrated a story about how he led a protest against the school authority at the Holy Ghost College, Umuahia over poor meals served to the students. The heroic act led to his suspension with other students who participated in that protest. This and other daring experiences would later forge him as a gallant human rights activist with many confrontations with military dictators and their brutal state agents. Innocent risked his life many times and suffered wanton harassment alongside other critical voices as they fought steely against dictatorship in the grotesque days of military rule in Nigeria. Highly urbane, cosmopolitan and nationalistic in his intellectual devotion to state building in Nigeria; Innocent’s enduring impacts would be felt in his broader contributions to police reform in Nigeria and his unalloyed commitment to youth development in the country.

I often consider him as the dean of police studies due to his sheer contributions to knowledge production in police research and practice in Nigeria. One only needs to engage him for a few minutes to perceive his depth of knowledge on the subject. I recall two vivid examples that gave credence to this assertion. One of my learned friends who is also an emerging scholar in the field of criminal justice once confided in me that he found out from his literature review that “Innocent and Professor Alemika have permanently defined the research agenda on police research in Nigeria”. Another more profound instance came when I was approached by a senior police officer to seek my advice on his research topic for a strategic course at the National Defense College in Abuja. Having discussed the topic with me; I advised him to seek an audience with Innocent and interview him.

I graciously obliged him his contact and he travelled to Lagos to meet Innocent. The senior officer returned to Abuja and came to recount his experience to me at the CLEEN Office in Abuja. In summary, he noted Innocent was recommending books and research papers on police and policing to him at the maximum of five minutes intervals in the course of the interview. He said, ‘Wole, I concluded Innocent knows policing more than me- even as a police officer”. The senior officer would later retire as a Deputy Inspector General of Police. This account attests to Innocent’s profound intellectual exertion on diverse subjects ranging from policing to security, human rights and democracy.

Innocent also made a significant impact in youth development in Nigeria. Virtually all of us who have had opportunities to be trained by him in many ways had contact with him mostly in our twenties and early thirties. Innocent knew what everyone would need to succeed in the global development profession and encouraged us individually. My Ph.D. research benefitted immensely from such a generous scheme he put in place in CLEEN Foundation. On his twitter handle, Innocent prides himself as a lifelong learner and specialist in identifying gaps and opportunities to solving wicked problems! He piloted this idea and demonstrated how to innovate for radically greater social goods in the society. He challenged bad governance as a human rights activist, and also established Oluaka Academy- a social enterprise and world class centre for innovation, business incubation, skills and enterprise development with a mission to support development of technologies for solving social problems, growth of small businesses and vocational skills in partnership with private, public and social sectors.

Innocent left indelible footprints on the sand of time and many would continue to benefit from the shades of trees he planted. He maintained national impact and global relevance. From Southern America to the Middle East, Western countries, Africa and Asia, he maintained strong alliances with other human rights activists and scholars. In many instances, when  I have interacted with him, I found out that the intelligentsia I have probably read about are close allies whom he called friends and regularly compared notes with. The enigma around this aura is that most people who admire him have not even met him! But they all have great stories to share about him. Sometimes mentioning his name in international fora automatically confers respect and honour on me. I recall such experience I had in a meeting organized by the World Organisation Against Torture in Geneva in 2019 where I represented Nigeria in a working group meeting of human rights defenders. The Secretary General of the OMCT walked to me at the coffee stand and started a conversation about police brutality and human rights abuse in Nigeria. We discussed extensively and he alluded to the profound respect he has for Innocent albeit they have not met before! Such is the latitude of his impact and the scope of his sphere of influence. Innocent personified humility and dignity. He was highly strategic and inspirational in his approach to life. He was many things to some of us: a mentor, a senior friend and a comrade in the struggle for a better Nigeria. I will treasure the text message he sent to me on the 20th of December, 2020 as the last advice from a general. The text also came as an encouragement- an ideal he represented so well.

Innocent Chukwuma fought for a liberated and egalitarian Nigeria. The responsibility lies with us to pick the baton from him and complete the race he and his comrades started in their prime.

Rest in peace and power, Innocent Chukwuma- our departed hero!

http://saharareporters.com/2021/04/05/tribute-innocent-chukwuma-when-great-souls-die-wole-ojewale

The clock of Mubarak is ticking….

October 6, 2020

Humanist International created an ingenious way to show how long Mubarak Bala is being held illegally in detention:

Mubarak Bala has been detained arbitrarily
without charge for
:

 161  DAYS :    13  HOURS :    37  MINUTES :    00  SECONDS

banner mb homepage take 4.png

Mubarak Bala is the president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria. He has beenheld in detention without access to a lawyer since his arrest on 28 April 2020 in connection with a Facebook post.

Humanists International believes that Mubarak Bala is being targeted for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief, and calls for the case against him to be dropped, for Mubarak Bala to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for the Nigerian authorities to ensure his safety upon his release.

read the latest updates on mubarak bala

Sign the Statement

https://www.tickcounter.com/widget/countup/180906

https://freemubarakbala.org/

Nigeria: almost a hundred NGOs call on the Senate to reject Anti-Social Media Bill

March 5, 2020
Gabriel Ewepu in the Vanguard of 5 March 2020 reports that 95 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), under the auspices of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for Protection of Civic Space, called on the Nigerian Senate to reject the Anti-Social Media Bill. This call was contained in a statement signed by leaders of the 95 during a media conference in Abuja. The statement reads in part:

Read the rest of this entry »

Human Rights Day 2019: anthology part II

December 17, 2019
As always a lot of reports on 10 December 2019 came in after the posting of my anthology [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/11/human-rights-day-10-december-2019-an-ant]. So here a second collection:

Zimbabwe:

In a statement to mark International Human Rights Day, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said young people have a significant role to play in the protection and promotion of human rights. The ZHRC said rights come with certain responsibilities and obligations and young people should exercise their rights responsibly. “For instance, young people must shun all forms of violence and refrain from being used to oppress other people, engaging in political violence and other acts inconsistent with human rights principles and values of respect for human dignity, honesty, justice, fairness and equality,” reads the ZHRC statement. The commission said it is advocating for youths across the political divide to push their parties towards embracing human rights. ZHRC said youths should positively change the national narrative towards enjoyment of rights.

The Bahamas Weekly used the occasion of International Human Rights Day to publish a statement by the OAS Secretary General: ..As Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), I have dedicated myself above all else to promoting a strong vision: more rights for more people. ..This year I particularly want to express my concern about the violence suffered by people who defend human rights in the Americas. Unfortunately, all too often we are forced to remember what should be obvious: the human rights of social leaders are, as are the human rights of all citizens of the Hemisphere, inviolable. I want to recognize these leaders and defenders of human rights throughout the Hemisphere. For the OAS, it has been and remains imperative to accompany and support their efforts to promote, assert, respect and protect human rights. This work constitutes a central axis for social transformation and the consolidation of peace, democracy and the validity of human rights in the region. It is fair to make a special mention of all those women leaders defending human rights, for transforming their realities, for being peace-building agents, for opening spaces that historically have been denied them, making way for more women to exercise their rights every day with a powerful agenda of equality and peace.

The New Times of Rwanda focused on people with disabilities.

…..Despite political will and legal guarantees, persons with disabilities are generally denied many of their rights and dignity across the world. This is often due to discrimination and stigma in society. We see this discrimination and stigma in the way people relate to persons with disability and in the language that is used towards them, their parents and their siblings. We also see it in the names people give them, the way people look at them and the manner in which they are often dismissed, excluded and marginalized in schools and businesses etc.

This is why we must work hard on changing mindsets and improving awareness. We need the current and the next generation to realize that people with disabilities are still people, who think and dream and feel the same way we do. And they have abilities, as much as the rest of us, but they sometimes need some assistance to realize their full potential.

The Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030) calls for the empowerment of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life. Disability is referenced in various parts of this Agenda and specifically in parts related to education, economic growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, access to services, as well as data collection and monitoring. The 2030 Agenda encourages us to focus on providing fair and equitable opportunities to all, including persons with disabilities……How often do we stop to ask, “How accessible are our homes, schools, hospitals, public transport, churches, public offices, entertainment buildings to persons with disabilities?” Do we include sign language in meetings and television? Do we welcome persons with disabilities in our workshops and on our panels to discuss important topics pertinent to all? In our families, study and work environments, in our churches and communities, are we having conversations about the needs and rights and abilities of persons with disability?

Finally, empowerment is about equipping persons with disabilities with skills and facilities, including assistive devices, which allow them to actively and independently contribute to the development of themselves, their families, communities and countries. It is about not giving them a fish to survive on for a day but teaching them to fish to create a better future and, and also contribute to Rwanda’s development.

Yemen:

Over 17 NGOs wrote to the leaders of all warring parties in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE:

We write to you on Human Rights Day to call on you to take meaningful steps to end detentionrelated abuse in Yemen. Steps taken in recent weeks by both the Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to unilaterally release hundreds of detainees were positive. There remains an urgent need to address rampant, ongoing detention-related abuse that continues to affect tens of thousands of Yemenis across the country. The impact of detention-related abuse goes beyond the person detained – it impacts their family members, their loved ones and wider society. In addition to ending the suffering of victims and their families, ending and redressing detention-related abuses also would contribute towards reaching a just and sustainable resolution of the conflict in Yemen.

We specifically write to ask you to build on recent positive steps by using your authority and influence to help ensure the release of all those arbitrarily detained, an end to enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, the improvement of conditions of detention, including the facilitation of family visits, and full cooperation with efforts to ensure that individuals reasonably suspected of responsibility for war crimes and serious human rights violations, including torture and hostage-taking, are prosecuted in fair trials that preclude the death penalty.

……. While the recent unilateral release of prisoners – mostly fighters – by both the Houthis and KSA, may help build confidence between the parties, more extensive and comprehensive steps must be taken to address rampant detention-related rights abuse, regardless of the state of political talks. To that end, we call on you to use your influence and good offices to help bring about an end to ill-treatment, torture, arbitrary detention and forced disappearances by all parties to the conflict. We urge you to help secure the release of those arbitrarily detained, human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful activists; and that anyone deprived of their liberty is granted regular access to their families and lawyers; and that international monitors are allowed immediate access to all detention facilities, unofficial and official.

Nigeria: Lawyers and activists have used this year’s International Human Rights Day to assess the human rights situation in Nigeria. Marking the event last week in Abuja, the activists were of the view that the human rights situation has dropped since the return of democracy in 1999. Speaking at the event organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and civil society groups, senior lawyers and rights defenders called on legal practitioners and citizens to defend liberty. In his remark, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) said “until the legal profession begins to take objection to every violations of human rights, including self-violations, and begin to apply sanctions, the government will continue to violate human rights with such impunity and audacity of arrogance.” Speaking on the topic ‘The State of Human Rights in Nigeria’, a civil society activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), criticised the Social Media Regulation Bill and Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly as a breach of the provisions of Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution which grants freedom of expression. “When you get to a situation in a country where the leader says people should not talk, then they are afraid of something. It is either we are getting set for a third term agenda or getting set for a full blown civilian dictatorship,” he said. Also commemorating the day, the Avocats Sans Francaise France (ASFF) otherwise known as Lawyers Without Borders, called on security agencies to adhere to the rule of law and due process in the discharge of their duties.

Heinrich Boell Foundation: used the occasion to publish a article by ISHR’s Salma El Hosseiny the 20th anniversary (in 2020) of the creation of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. For the full article follow the link below.   All UN agencies should treat the Declaration on human rights defenders as a ‘guiding star’ for their work. UN agencies working on promoting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should integrate the protection of defenders as a vital component of contributing to implementation of the SDGs and the prevention of human rights violations. At a time where people across the globe are demanding more inclusive, sustainable and fairer societies, defenders are acting as leaders and agents of change to ensure that the world’s leaders have no choice but to listen.


 

Youths urged to defend human rights

http://www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/oas-media-releases/Secretary_General_on_International_Human_Rights_Day64244.shtml

https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/featured-human-rights-day

https://news.pngfacts.com/2019/12/eu-recognizes-five-civil-society.html

https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/joint-letter-detention-yemen

https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/lawyers-activists-assess-human-rights-situation.html

https://www.boell.de/en/2019/12/10/protecting-those-who-defend-our-human-rights

Carter Centre: Human Rights Defenders speak out

December 10, 2019

At the occasion of international human rights day 2019, the Carter Center published “Human Rights Defenders: In Their Own Words“, a selection of participants at the 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/22/carter-centre-wants-to-preserve-the-stories-of-human-rights-defenders/]:

  • “The right to defend human rights is a right already recognized. We have to be mindful and careful and state clearly that no one should be defamed, persecuted, prosecuted, or killed because they exercise their right to defend rights, regardless of their political position.”
    CLAUDIA SAMAYOA
    Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    Guatemala
    and
    ALEJANDRA SERRANO PAVÓN
    Environmental Law Alliance
    Mexico

  • “We believe that if people understand the concept of human rights and are able to apply it to their lives, then there will be more peaceful coexistence. Then government can cut down on the bills for buying arms and ammunitions. Then development can take place because everybody’s living peacefully and they’re able to go about their normal businesses fully.”
    HALIMAT JIBRIL
    Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN)
    Nigeria

  • “We have seen the rise of many youth-led movements around the world, and these young protesters are speaking out and standing up not just on the issue of environmental crisis, but also on land rights, on democracy. All of them are using the internet as a tool not just for communication but also for organizing and mobilizing these campaigns.  One concrete way we can support youth-led movements is to make sure that these internet tools remain accessible, safe, and truly empowering.”
    RAYMOND “MONG” PALATINO
    Global Voices
    The Philippines

  • “The Palestinian people, just like all people around the world, are seeking the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when that is undermined in one part of the world, it is undermined everywhere. I feel like the Palestinian situation is just a microcosm of global injustice. If we can solve one, we can solve the other. But big problems require collective minds.”
    WESAM AHMAD
    Al-Haq
    Palestine

  • “Every time that we’ve had significant change in our country, religion has been at the heart of it. It’s been part of what motivates people. It speaks to our values. To neglect religion in thinking about human rights would be to neglect a huge part of the resources that we have in taking on the injustices we face.”
    COLLEEN WESSEL-MCCOY
    Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
    United States

  • “Solidarity is not about ‘me’; it’s about ‘we.’ It’s about just being there – not being ahead of somebody or behind somebody, but standing with them.”
    STACEY HOPKINS
    Activist
    United States

  • “The relationship we build between people is the greatest wealth we can have. It is beyond money. It goes beyond what you have in your bank account. When you have a good relationship with the people – your friends, your family, your colleagues – that is a good foundation to build a country.”
    HALIDOU NGAPNA
    Carter Center Human Rights House
    Democratic Republic of Congo

  • “In 1996, we embedded human rights into our three-year program. Immediately, we started seeing change. It was like a revolution. Community members started coming out and promoting their own rights, started talking about their responsibilities. This was possible because we talked about all the aspects of human rights – economic rights, cultural rights, political rights, and civil rights. After people understood human rights, we started seeing changes in deeply rooted cultural practices, including female genital cutting and child marriage. They started having dialogues around gender-based violence against women and girls. Women started taking political positions, because they now understood they have the right to vote, and the right to be elected. Things started changing.”
    GODFREY OCHIENG OKUMU
    Tostan International
    Senegal

  • “If you’re not indifferent, the world will be different. Challenging our own indifferences is extremely important.”
    RAMESH SHARMA
    Ekta Parishad
    India

  • “In 2015, our lives began to change completely. We lost our jobs; we lost our homes; we lost our country; we lost our dignity. But we did not lose hope, and we will never lose hope.”
    MUNA LUQMAN
    Food4Humanity
    Yemen

  • “The motto of our organization is taken from John 17:21, which says, ‘That all of them may be one.’ If all should be one, there should be no violence, there should be no quarrel, there should be no killing. For all of us to be one, there must be love. There must be peace. There must be unity. And there must be togetherness.”
    VICTORIA BOLANLE IHESIULOR
    Christian Association of Nigeria, Women’s Wing
    Nigeria

    https://www.cartercenter.org/news/features/p/human_rights/hrdf-in-their-own-words.html

48 Human Rights groups intervene for detained Nigerian Omoyele Sowore

August 26, 2019

On 23 August 2019 48 NGOs issued an urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and detention of Omoyele Sowore, Nigerian journalist and human rights defender, to the UN and African human rights bodies. Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship said: “Index on Censorship urges the Nigerian authorities to release the prominent journalist and campaigner Omoyele Sowore immediately. The arrest and detention are a shocking violation of Mr Sowore’s human rights, which calls into question Nigeria’s willingness and ability to meet international human rights obligations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Omoyele Sowore (Photo: Mohamed Nanabhay / Wikipedia)

To the members of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteurs:

We, 48 human rights and press freedom organisations, respectfully request that you consider this urgent appeal in relation to the arrest and arbitrary detention of Nigerian journalist and human rights defender Omoyele Sowore who was arrested by the authorities following a call for peaceful protest. We request that you urgently intervene to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore and declare his arrest and detention a gross violation of his human rights, including the right not to be arbitrarily detained as protected by Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Banjul Charter); the right to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 ICCPR and Article 7 of the Banjul Charter; the right to freedom of expression as protected by Article 19 ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter; the right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association as protected by Articles 21 and 22 ICCPR and Articles 10 and 11 of the Banjul Charter; and his rights as a human rights defender as outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa.

Background 

  1. Mr Sowore is a prominent journalist, human rights activist and pro-democracy campaigner. He is the founder of Sahara Reporters, an online news agency based in New York City that focuses on corruption, human rights abuses and other political misconduct in Nigeria. Challenging government corruption and speaking truth to power has been the constant thread throughout Mr Sowore’s career, from the leading of student protests in the 1990’s to his recent campaign running for Presidential office in Nigeria.

Omoyele Sowore’s arrest and detention 

  1. Mr Sowore was arrested on 3 August 2019 in his hotel room during a trip to Lagos. Security agents forcefully detained Mr Sowore without informing him of any charges against him and flew him to Abuja, where he is currently being detained at the facility of the headquarters of the Nigerian State Security Service. Mr Sowore has access to food and water, but no access to the outside world: no newspapers, television or phone, and he spends most days in isolation. He was held incommunicado until 6 August, during which time Mr Sowore refused to answer any questions without consulting with his lawyer. He was allowed access to his lawyers only on 7 August, 4 days after his arrest.
  2. Based on Section 35 of the Nigerian Constitution, Mr Sowore should have been arraigned before a court within 48 hours. As of today, Mr Sowore has not been arraigned in any court.
  3. However, on 6 August, 3 days after his arrest, the State Security Service did seek an ex- parte order from the Federal High Court in Abuja to detain Mr Sowore under Section 27(1) of the Terrorism Act 2013, which enables the detention of anyone planning to “commit an act of violence”. The Court’s order of 8 August, made within 48 hours after the State Security Service’s request, granted the authorities permission to detain Mr Sowore for 45 days. Within 24 hours, his legal team, led by Mr Femi Falana, filed a motion to set aside the order and requested Mr Sowore’s immediate release, arguing that his detention was contrary to the Nigerian Constitution. At the time of writing, this request has not been heard by the courts and no date for hearing has been fixed. Importantly: no formal charges have been filed against Mr Sowore.

Mr Sowore’s call for a peaceful #RevolutionNow protest 

  1. The arrest of Mr Sowore appears to be the direct consequence of his call for a peaceful protest scheduled to take place on 5 August 2019, using the hashtag #RevolutionNow.

The objective of the protest was to demand that the Nigerian government end corruption and economic inequality and guarantee education to all. That the protest Mr Sowore and the Coalition for Revolution (CORE) movement he founded called for was a peaceful one is made clear at the very outset of the call for protest, issued on 27 July, which starts by setting out the “rules of engagement”:

We eschew all forms of violence. No protester should throw any object as little as stones or attack any security officials. We are aware of their intent to provoke the mass unduly by using undue tactics and sponsored agents, so as to give the protest a bad name. We encourage all Nigerians to remain calm as we are ready to fight these injustices to a logical conclusion. 

  1. A week earlier, in an interview with the Arise News channel, Mr Sowore stated that “Nigeria needs revolution, not war,” clearly distinguishing his call for substantial change from a call to violence. Mr Sowore has used the word “revolution” contextually to mean “change for the better” since 2006, when he founded Sahara Reporters. Mr Sowore then stated that he would “revolutionise” the way news is being reported in Nigeria –– something he actually did with the investigative citizen journalism the website publishes.
  2. Despite Mr Sowore’s arrest and detention, the 5 August #RevolutionNow protests took place in Abuja, Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Cross River. Protesters met a police force that dispersed them with teargas and gunshots. Numerous protesters, including several of Sahara Reporters’ journalists, were arrested and charged with illegal assembly.

Request for urgent action 

  1. It is clear that Mr Sowore’s arrest on apparent grounds of suspicion of terrorism is unfounded. Mr Sowore did what he has done throughout his career as a journalist and human rights activist: exercise his right to freedom of expression and seek to bring about change through peaceful means, in this case a peaceful protest. The use of the emotive term “revolution” merely underlines his desire for transformative change in what he considers the shortcomings of the current government. There are strong suspicions that Mr Sowore’s arrest stems from ulterior motives than responding to any supposed criminal wrongdoing. This is further highlighted by the fact that the authorities failed to define a charge against him for the first few days after his arrest; the investigations that were subsequently instigated against him under the Terrorism Act were clearly only created to serve the purpose of silencing Mr Sowore.
  2. As such, the arrest and detention of Mr Sowore amount to a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained as guaranteed under Article 9 ICCPR and Article 6 of the Banjul Charter. The fact that the charges brought against him most likely stem from his call for a peaceful demonstration and his critical stance on the Nigerian government also violates Mr Sowore’s right to free expression under Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 9 of the Banjul Charter and his right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association under Articles 21 and 22 ICCPR and Articles 10 and 11 of the Banjul Charter. Not properly arraigning Mr Sowore before a competent court within the time limit mandated by the Nigerian Constitution and not allowing him access to a lawyer during the initial days of his detention violates his right to a fair trial as protected by Article 14 ICCPR and Article 7 of the Banjul Charter. The foregoing also constitutes a violation of his rights as a human rights defender as defined in the 1999 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and 2017 African Commission Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa.
  3. As a State Party to both treaties, Nigeria is under an obligation to guarantee these rights to all its citizens, as specified under Article 2(1) of the ICCPR and Article 2 of the Banjul Charter. Accordingly, we appeal to the Working Group and UN and AU Special Rapporteurs to:
  • intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore; and
  • declare his arrest and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.

SIGNED BY:
All Workers’ Convergence (AWC) 

Afrika Movement for Freedom and Justice (AMFJ)

Agege Women Agenda (AWA)

ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa

Centre for Constitutional Rights

Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ)

Chidi Odinkalu Former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (Nigeria) & Senior Fellow, Open Society Justice Initiative

Coalition for Revolution (CORE) 

Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) 

Community Women Initiatives (CWI) 

The Concerned Forum 

Congress of Progressive Youths (COPY) 

Democratic Youth League

Edo State Civil Society Organisation (EDOSCO)

Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria 

Freedom of Expression Hub

Gani Fawehinmi Apostles 

Gani Fawehinmi Memorial Organization (gafam.org) 

Governance Advancement Initiative for Nigeria (GAIN)

Global Voices Sub-Saharan Africa

Grassroot Justice Centre

Human and Environment Development Agenda (HEDA) 

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-UGANDA)

IAmVocal

Index on Censorship 

Media Legal Defence Initiative

Media Rights Agenda

Moshood Abiola Vanguard for Democracy (MAVD)

Movement For People’s Rights

National Conscience Party (NCP), Lagos State Branch

Nigerians in Diaspora Europe, Belgium-Luxembourg (NIDOE-BeLux)

Open Society for West Africa (OSIWA), Nigeria Office

Paradigm Initiative

People’s Alternative Front (PAF)

Peoples’ Unite

Rivers State Civil Society Coalition (RIVSCO)

Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) 

Save Lagos Group

Socialist Vanguard Tendency (SVT) 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)

Sovereign Vital Force 

Spaces for Change 

Take-It-Back (TiB) Movement 

Talakawa Parliament

Veteran Group for Operation Clean Crusade (VGOCC) 

Women for Leadership Change

Workbond International Network (WIN)

Youth In Good Governance Initiative (YIGGI) 

Call for Applications for Civic Space Litigation Surgery, 25-27 September in Nigeria

August 8, 2019
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Open Society Justice Initiative are calling for applications from lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations based in West Africa to participate in a forthcoming litigation surgery on the protection of civic space. The litigation surgery will be held in Abuja, Nigeria from September 25 – 27, 2019. All applicants are required to submit a current or potential case involving the protection of civic space for discussion and workshopping.  The application deadline is 11 August 2019. To apply, please complete the online application form available HERE and send all required documents.
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The proposed strategic litigation surgery is aimed at considering key issues implicated in protecting civic space, particularly the protection of freedom of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly and association. This litigation surgery looks to support and strengthen either existing or proposed cases that are focused on defending these rights.

Criteria for participant eligibility: 

  • The litigation surgery is open to lawyers and/or members of civil society organizations working in any member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ivory Coast, Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Applicants must possess a demonstrated commitment to addressing threats to civic space in their home country through sub-regional and regional human rights litigation. Lawyers currently employed by a government institution or political party are not eligible.
  • The participants must be involved in, or considering, litigating a case or cases that address the suppression of civic space involving a violation of the rights to freedoms of expression, the right to peaceful protest, assembly, and/or association. With their application, they must submit a case that they are litigating or intend to litigate before existing human rights protection mechanisms at the sub-regional or regional levels or the national court system, which could be discussed and workshopped during the litigation surgery.
  • The following non-exhaustive list of themes are a guide for the types of cases that could be submitted with the application:
    • Suppression of peaceful protests — e.g. through excessive use of force against protesters; criminalization of protesters and organizers; legal frameworks that either prevent, restrict and/or chill protest rights generally;
    • Burdensome regulatory restrictions on civil society organizations — e.g. constraints on access to foreign funding and foreign partnerships; obstacles in registering or maintaining registration; restrictive tax laws;
  • Suppression of the media and access to information — e.g. misuse of criminal defamation laws; restricted access to the internet and social media; abuse of cyber-crimes laws; other violations that produce a chilling effect on the freedom of expression, media freedom, citizen journalism, or access to information;
  • Abuse of laws or policies in the context of countering terrorism — e.g. misuse of broad counter-terrorism laws to criminalize and/or chill legitimate activities of civic actors;
  • Impunity for threats, violence, and arbitrary detention against human rights defenders, activists, journalists, media practitioners, bloggers, social media users and other civic actors.
  • While all civic space cases will be considered, we encourage cases that touch on an intersectionality of issues and/or address untested or developing areas of human rights jurisprudence at the national, sub-regional or regional levels respectively, including:
    • Cases that highlight the role of multinational corporations in the suppression of civic space;
    • Cases that link the suppression of civic space to economic, social, and cultural rights, including in particular environmental rights;
    • Cases that demonstrate how the suppression of civic space uniquely affects women, sexual minorities, persons with disabilities, or refugees and internally displaced persons;
    • Cases that address the link between the suppression of civic space and corruption.

Other important details: The working languages for the litigation surgery will be English and French. There will be simultaneous interpretation between the two languages available to all participants. The organizers will cover the cost of airfare, visas, local transportation, accommodation, and a reasonable per diem for expenses not otherwise covered for up to about 8 selected participants.

To apply: HERE. If you have any questions regarding the litigation surgery or the application process, please email advocacy@rfkhumanrights.org.

https://rfkhumanrights.org/news/call-for-applications-civic-space-litigation-surgery-1

‘Lost Childhoods’ – an interactive graphic novel exposing child abuse in Nigeria – awarded at BAFTA

June 20, 2019
Journalist-photographer Marc Ellison receiving the award in London on Monday evening [One Media World]
Journalist-photographer Marc Ellison receiving the award in London on Monday evening [One Media World]

The winning entry – Lost Childhoods: How Nigeria’s Fear of Child ‘Witchcraft’ Ruins Young Lives – was praised on Monday for its interactive investigation into the practice of branding children and young adolescents as “witches”. “Combining graphic novel imagery with film, this highly accessible piece effectively covers a major human rights issue,” One World Media organisers said from the awards gala at London’s British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).

Blamed for family illness, sudden financial loss or other misfortunes, the children are often beaten, locked into cages, branded with hot knives or made to undergo costly “exorcisms” performed by so-called “prophets” in local churches. With little choice but to flee, many children end up as drug addicts and living in rubbish dumps or on the streets.

AJLabs teamed up with journalist-photographer Marc Ellison and Nigerian illustrator Samuel Iwunze to unearth the facts of this under-reported story. Working meticulously with local fixers, NGOs and child psychologists, Ellison was able to expose the practice that has taken hold in parts of the Niger Delta and that has partially been fuelled by myths propagated by the Nigerian film industry.

Lost Childhoods employs a mix of visual and textual formats, including comic/graphic novel illustrations to preserve anonymity and portray past events. Carlos Van Meek, Al Jazeera’s director of Digital Innovation and Programming, said, “This story, in particular, is a skilful weave of investigations, videos, photos and illustrations that brings to light disturbing physical, emotional and religious abuse against children. Our goal is – and always will be – to make an impact that leads to positive change at the local and international level.”

As further testament to the production, AJLabs worked with NGOs to translate the graphic novel into local languages for distribution within communities, schools and churches in Nigeria, in an attempt to educate people and end the practice of scapegoating innocent children and branding them as witches.

Nigeria witchcraft

Nigeria finally has its Democracy Day: 12 June

June 14, 2019

Democracy Day – in honour of the late Chief Moshood Kasimawo OlawaleAbiola – President Muhammadu Buhari has finally signed into law, the bill to make June 12 Democracy day for the country. For the first time since his assumption of office, pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, and other critical stakeholders are unanimous in praising President Muhammadu Buhari for this milestone decision

Some Nigerians, particularly, political leaders of the Yoruba extraction in the South Western part of the country believed that the socio-economic and political fortunes of the country would have been better if the late MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election, had been allowed to assume power. However, this statement of declaring June 12 as real democracy day and honouring the deceased appears to have assuaged the feelings of the people, particularly those who believed that the election symbolizes true democracy and justice for the country.

Although, some say that the recognition of the date was a good idea, they equally expressed suspicion that it was meant to garner votes from a section of the country and that it negates the spirit behind it.

The piece then recounts in detail how the election issue devleoped over time.

Precisely, 25 years later, President Muhammadu Buhari declared that the day must be brought back to the national reckoning as the nation’s true Democracy Day as against the May 29 date that had been celebrated since 1999. Although by the time president made that declaration last year, the country was preparing for 2019 general elections, andnothing was done on it until a year

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Even, the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, sometimes said June 12 and the events that brought it were part of our country’s history and could not be forgotten, especially because of the unity and comradeship displayed by Nigerians on that Election Day in 1993. Atiku noted that the events of June 12, 1993, were watersheds in the history of the nation and that all Nigerians must work hard to ensure that the nation never again repeats that painful experience.

Atiku recalled that June 12 traumatized Nigerians and made some people to question the unity and oneness of the country and whether true democracy can take root in the country.

Political watchers, however, posited that it was the June 12 struggle which led to the death of acclaimed winner, MKO Abiola, that actually propelled military to hand over power on May 29, 1999, and the roles played by the then democracy activists, not that the military willingly relinquishes power.

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However, pundits said, President Muhammadu Buhari, with the fulfillment of his pronouncement,has done what they could not do for several years. Even. The president, during the conferment of Grand Commander of Federal Republic (GCFR) on MKO in Abuja, also offered an unreserved apology on behalf of the Federal Government to the family of MKO Abiola, over the annulment of June 12, 1993, poll, presumably won by late Abiola….

Democracy Day: No Easy WalkTo June 12