Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

November 5, 1996

Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

Finally, there are the cases of Rebecca Onyabi Ikpe, sister-in-law of another alleged coup-plotter, Colonel RSB Bello-Fadile, and his lawyer, Navy Commander LMO Fabiyi. Bello-Fadile was convicted of treason and conspiracy and sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. Rebecca Onyabi Ikpe and Commander Fabiyi were charged with being accessories after the fact to treason for allegedly passing Colonel Bello-Fadile´s defence submission to others. These were clearly politically-motivated charges aimed at preventing the public exposure of grave miscarriages of justice. Both Rebecca Ikpe and Commander Fabiyi were sentenced to life imprisonment, later commuted to 15 years. Another relative of a political prisoner who has suffered a similar fate is Sanusi Mato [for further details of these detentions and trials, see Amnesty International´s October 1995 report, Nigeria: A Travesty of Justice. Secret Treason Trials and Other Concerns, AI Index: AFR 44/23/95].

These detentions and trials violated the following international human rights standards, including treaty obligations:

a) By failing promptly to inform the defendants of the substance of the charges against them, so that they knew exactly what actions they were alleged to have committed and in what way these acts were unlawful - Articles 9(2) and 14(3)(a) of the ICCPR; Article 7 of the ACHPR

c) By the refusal to allow the defendants to be represented by lawyers of their own choice - Article 14(3)(d) of the ICCPR; Article 7(c) of the ACHPR

d) By trying the defendants before a court which was neither competent, independent or impartial - Article 14(1) of the ICCPR; Articles 3 and 7 of the ACHPR

e) By denying defendants the right to be tried in ordinary courts or tribunals using established procedures - Principle 5 of the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary

f) By failing to provide for proper and prompt medical examination - Articles 7 and 10 (1) of the ICCPR; Article 5 of the ACHPR; Principle 24 of the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment; Rule 91 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

g) By failing to address serious allegations that prosecution statements were obtained under torture, duress and improper inducement - Articles 7, 10(1) and 14(3)(g) of the ICCPR; Articles 12, 13 and 15 of the UN Convention against Torture; Articles 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the ACHPR

h) By refusing to allow for the courts to order the production of detainees before them, including by writ of habeas corpus - Article 9(4) of the ICCPR; Articles 6 and 7(1) of the ACHPR

i) By not allowing defendants sufficient time or facilities to prepare their defence properly - Article 14(3)(b) of the ICCPR; Article 7(c) of the ACHPR

j) By refusing defendants the right of appeal to a higher and independent judicial body - Article 14(5) of the ICCPR; Article 7(1)(a) of the ACHPR)

In addition, several of those tried and convicted by Special Military Tribunal were not military personnel. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors compliance with the provisions of the ICCPR, has stated that "military courts should not have the faculty to try cases which do not refer to offences committed by members of the armed forces in the course of their duties"(UN Doc. CCPR/C/79/Add. 3, paragraph 9, 9 August 1993 (Comment on report of Egypt)).

2 Trials and executions of Ogoni activists, 1995

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight other MOSOP supporters, were executed on 10 November 1995 in defiance of the international community, following growing concern that their trials had been grossly unfair and politically-motivated. The nine executed were: Ken Saro-Wiwa; Barinem Kiobel; Saturday Doobee; Paul Levura; Nordu Eawo; Felix Nuate; Daniel Gbokoo; John Kpuinen; Baribor Bera [for further details of these trials, see Amnesty International´s September 1995 report, Nigeria: The Ogoni Trials and Detentions, AI Index: AFR 44/20/95].