SERAP petitions UN over violent attacks on protesters in Abuja

Posted by News Express | 24 December 2019 | 789 times

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•UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned Mr. Clement Voule, UN Special Rapporteur, on the right to peaceful assembly and association urging him to “publicly express concerns about the growing human rights violations and abuses in Nigeria and call on the authorities to end violent attacks on peaceful protesters and to take urgent measures to respect and protect the rights of all Nigerians to protest anywhere in the country.”

SERAP alleged that, “Nigerian authorities and police yesterday morning in Abuja failed to stop attacks on peaceful demonstrators by young men apparently armed with sticks and sharp objects. The police officers who were present did not intervene decisively to stop the attacks or arrest any attackers.”

In the petition dated 24 December 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is responsible under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international law to protect the safety and rights of protesters and create an environment conducive to a diverse and pluralistic expression of ideas and dissent from government policy.”

According to SERAP, “The wave of protests against repression by both the Federal and State authorities illustrates a broken social contract between the authorities and Nigerians. The authorities have been failing to meet the demands of Nigerians to respect human rights, end restrictions on civic space, obey court orders and ensure the rule of law.”

The petition copied to Ms Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, read in part: “The failure to hold to account those responsible has continued to increase the vulnerability of protesters and activists in the country.

“We urge you to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate the attacks, identify the perpetrators and ensure the prosecution of anyone found to be responsible for the violent attacks.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the Nigerian authorities have so far failed and/or neglected to address or redress the attacks on peaceful protesters, despite growing calls on the authorities to investigate the attacks and bring perpetrators to justice.

“We urge you to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to take all feasible measures to protect peaceful protesters demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience, and full respect for the rule of law.

“We urge you to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to make clear that they will not tolerate violent attacks on protesters. The authorities have a responsibility both to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to protect protesters from violent attack.”

“The demonstrations have taken place against a backdrop of the failure by the Nigerian authorities to respect human rights, release prisoners of conscience including Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo, obey court orders and respect the rule of law.

“Freedom of peaceful assembly is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution and regional and international human rights treaties including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

“Deji Adeyanju, one of the protesters, was hospitalised after sustaining bruises on his left arm. Protesters were reportedly chased from the Secretariat of the National Human Rights Commission where they had gathered to deliver a petition to the commission.”

“The attacks are coming on the heels of similar violent attacks on protesters demanding the release of prisoners of conscience in Abuja in November, and another apparently sponsored and coordinated attacks against Amnesty International’s office in Abuja in March 2017, following the launch of its human rights report on the military.”

Meaanwhile, SERAP this evening welcomed the announcement by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari ordering the release of Sowore and the immediate-past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, from custody.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) today reportedly directed the Department of State Services to release Col. Dasuki and Mr. Sowore from custody.

In a statement by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “This is a positive step by the Nigerian government. We hope that this signals a change in direction in Nigeria towards full respect for the rule of law, tolerance and greater openness by the government that would allow citizens to effectively enjoy their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The statement reads in part: “SERAP has consistently called for the immediate and unconditional release of Sowore, Olawale Bakare and other prisoners of conscience. The President Buhari government should now immediately withdraw all charges against Mr Sowore and Olaware Bakare and all others detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. They should never have been charged in the first place.

“We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Agba Jalingo and all those still detained on bogus charges, having spoken out in favour of greater democracy, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“The government cannot continue to pick and choose which court orders to obey. All court orders must be immediately and fully obeyed. It should never be right for the government to selectively obey court orders.

“The government should have immediately obeyed court orders releasing Sowore, Dazuki and others on bail.

“The President Buhari government must cease the restrictions on the civic space, respect human rights, and immediately obey all outstanding court orders including at least four judgments obtained by SERAP. The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts involved.

“The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, while the third judgment, by Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, ordered the immediate release of details of payments of billions of naira to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies since 1999.

“The fourth judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris (as he then was), ordered President Buhari to prosecute senior lawmakers suspected of padding and stealing N481 billion from the 2016 budget. The court also ordered President Buhari to “direct the publication of the report of investigations by security and anti-corruption bodies into the alleged padding of the 2016 budget.”

Source: News Express

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