The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sought the intervention of the United Nations over the detention of the convener of #RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore, and four others.
In a statement on Tuesday by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group said it has sent an urgent complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over the “arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment” Sowore and the other whom it said were activists for peacefully exercising their human rights.
This comes a day after a Magistrate Court in Abuja ordered the remand of the five persons at the Kuje Correctional Centre in the nation’s capital pending when their formal bail application would be heard on Tuesday.
They were arraigned by the Federal Government on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and an attempt to incite others.
In its reaction, SERAP said, “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 January 4, it stressed that the detention of the five persons constituted an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty, saying it does not have any legal justification.
The human rights group urged the UN Working Group to initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the charges against Sowore and the activists and to urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian government inquiring about the case generally.
It also urged the international body to issue an opinion declaring that the deprivation of liberty and detention of Sowore and the others was arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international human rights law.
Before their arraignment, Sowore had in a tweet called for a crossover protest, asking Nigerians to pick up a candle and a placard showing their grievances against the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The complaint addressed to the Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, Mr Jose Guevara Bermudez, read in part:
The Human Rights Committee has interpreted this right to mean that procedures for carrying out legally authorized deprivation of liberty should also be established by law and State parties should ensure compliance with their legally prescribed procedures.
Pursuant to the mandate of the Working Group, the “Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council” and the publication “Working with the UN Human Rights Programme, a Handbook for Civil Society”, SERAP, a non-governmental human rights organization, can provide information on a specific human rights case or situation in a particular country, or on a country’s laws and practices with human rights implications.
SERAP, therefore, argues that the case adequately satisfies the requirements by which to submit an individual complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
SERAP is therefore seeking an opinion from the Working Group finding the continuing detention of Mr Sowore and four other activists to be arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international law.
Accordingly, it is hereby requested that the Working Group consider this Individual Complaint a formal request for an opinion of the Working Group pursuant to Resolution 1997/50 of the Commission on Human Rights, as reiterated by Resolutions 2000/36, 2003/31, and Human Rights Council Resolutions 6/4, 15/18, 20/16, and 24/7.
SERAP respectfully requests the Working Group to initiate the procedure involving the investigation of individual cases toward reaching an opinion declaring the detention of Mr Sowore and four other activists to be arbitrary and in violation of international human rights law.
To this end, SERAP will pursue the regular communications procedure before the Working Group in order to have the ability to provide comments on any response by the Nigerian government.
On midnight of 1st January 2021, Mr Sowore and four other activists were arrested by the officers of Nigeria Police Force, particularly men dispatched from Apo Division, Abuja, at the #CrossoverWithProtest, a planned procession across the country on New Year Eve.
They were reportedly subjected to severe torture and other ill-treatment, and Sowore was left with bruises on his nose and all over his body in an apparently the use of excessive force by the police officers.
Sowore and four other activists were arraigned at the Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 2 on Monday, 4th January 2021 on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and attempting to incite others.
Sowore denied all the charges, but the Magistrate ordered that he, alongside other activists, be remanded in Kuje Prison. He was denied access to his friends and family for days.
The authorities have also refused to provide him with medical attention despite overt marks of torture and other ill-treatment he reportedly suffered.