Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

Report
November 5, 1996

Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

2 Release immediately all prisoners of conscience - people imprisoned for their political or
religious beliefs, sex or ethnic origin - who have neither used nor advocated violence,
including those detained without charge or trial and those convicted and imprisoned after unfair political trials

Prisoners of conscience who should be immediately and unconditionally released include:

Chief Moshood Abiola - politician
Femi Aborisade - human rights activist
Ayo Adebanjo - politician
Abraham Adesanya - politician
Kunle Ajibade - journalist
Chris Anyanwu -journalist
Milton Dabibi - trade union leader
Ganiyu Dawodu - politician
Femi Falana - lawyer and human rights activist
Chief Gani Fawehinmi - lawyer and human rights activist
Rebecca Ikpe - relative of political prisoner
Frank Kokori - trade union leader
Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti - lawyer and human rights activist
Sanusi Mato - relative of political prisoner
George Mbah - journalist
General Olusegun Obasanjo - politician
Ben-Charles Obi - journalist
Ayo Opadokun - politician
Shehu Sani- human rights activist
Chima Ubani - human rights activist
Major-General Shehu Musa Yar' Adua - politician

[For further information on these individual cases, see Amnesty International´s November 1996 report, Nigeria: Human rights defenders under attack (AI Index: AFR 44/16/96)]
 

3 End arbitrary detention. Revoke all military decrees which allow for the indefinite or incommunicado detention without trial of political prisoners, including the State Security
(Detention of Persons) Decree, No. 2 of 1984

In May 1996, the present military government announced that the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree, No. 2 of 1984 was to be amended to allow the cases of detainees held under the decree to be reviewed every three months. However, the composition of the review body - the Chief of General Staff, the Inspector General of Police and the Attorney General - does not suggest that such reviews will be independent and impartial. The previous military government, led by General Ibrahim Babangida, announced a similar reform during the last aborted transition to civilian rule. It had little practical effect and was soon withdrawn after the coming to power of General Abacha in November 1993. Amnesty International believes that nothing short of revocation of Decree No. 2 of 1984 will suffice as a declaration of intent that arbitrary detention will no longer be tolerated.

A further reform announced by the present Nigerian government in May 1996 was the repeal of an amendment to Decree No. 2 of 1984. Decree No. 14 of 1994, which ousted the jurisdiction of the courts to issue writs of habeas corpus regarding persons detained under Decree No. 2 of 1984, has now been repealed. However, Decree No. 2 of 1984 still contains a clause ousting the jurisdiction of the courts and preventing them from ordering a detainee´s release. Therefore, the repeal of Decree No. 14 of 1994 does not guarantee that the Nigerian authorities will in future respect writs of habeas corpus. Court orders for the release of detainees have continued to be issued by the courts since the present government took power in November 1993, but have regularly been ignored. Indeed, a number of court orders issued since May 1996 have reportedly been ignored by the authorities. In addition, other decrees remain in force which diminish the jurisdiction of the normal court system. For example, Decree No. 12 of 1994 effectively places the government above the law by prohibiting legal challenges to any of its military decrees or to any action which violates the human rights provisions of the Constitution.

Accordingly, Amnesty International believes that the present Nigerian government should revoke without delay all military decrees which allow for the indefinite or incommunicado detention without trial of political prisoners.