Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent “an urgent complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over the arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment of journalist Omoyele Sowore and four other activists simply for peacefully exercising their human rights”.
SERAP is urging the “Working Group should request the Nigerian authorities to withdraw the bogus charges against Mr Sowore and four other activists, and to immediately and unconditionally release them”.
In the complaint dated 4 January, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The detention of Omoyele 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.
“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.”
SERAP is calling on the Working Group to “initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the detention, torture and bogus charges against Mr Sowore and four other activists, and to urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian government inquiring about the case generally, and specifically about the legal basis for their arrest, detention, torture and other ill-treatment, each of which is in violation of international human rights law.”
SERAP is also urging the Working Group to “issue an opinion declaring that the deprivation of liberty and detention of Mr Sowore and four other activists is arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international human rights law. We also urge the Working Group to call for their immediate and unconditional release.”
SERAP also argued that a detention is arbitrary when it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty.
Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which confirms the right to liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention, guarantees that no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.
The current detention of Sowore was not the first time the activist would be arrested and detained by the Nigerian government.
For instance, Sowore was arrested on August 3, 2019, in Lagos by the Department of State Services, Nigeria’s domestic intelligence agency with a history of repression.
He was moved to the agency’s headquarters in Abuja where he was illegally detained for 144 days despite different court orders for his release.
The DSS accused Sowore of baseless crimes like money laundering. The security agency claimed he was plotting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari even though it failed to produce evidence to substantiate its claim.
He was subsequently arraigned for treason but had pleaded not guilty. The activist cum journalist was granted bail in November 2020, but part of the conditions restricts him to Abuja.
SaharaReporters, New York