Hope Rises for 54 Condemned Soldiers as UN Wades In

By Adedayo Ogunleye, Abuja

The 54 Nigerian soldiers on death row may look forward to a reprieve, if indications that the United Nations is considering “appropriate actions” which include conferring with President Goodluck Jonathan, are anything to go by.

The UN action is coming in response to a petition by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, to the international body.

The UN’s intention was reportedly confirmed by the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions, headed by Christof Heyns.

According to SERAP, Heyns stated in his response that appropriate action, “including communication to the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, is being considered regarding the imminent execution of 54 soldiers in Nigeria.”

Asking that the UN urgently compel the Nigerian government and its military authorities to desist from executing the December 14, 2014 death penalty ruling passed on the soldiers, SERAP had petitioned the world body, requesting that five UN human rights independent experts individually and jointly intervene in the issue.

SERAP’s executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, yesterday noted that the talks with the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions both on the telephone and via email were yielding positive fruit.

In a statement issued yesterday he stated that “Johel Dominique has confirmed that the Special Rapporteur is considering appropriate action to avert the imminent execution of 54 soldiers on death row in the country.”

He also stated that SERAP had assured the Special Rapporteur that concerning the petition to the UN, it has the consent of the counsel to the 54 soldiers, Femi Falana.

“SERAP welcomes the decision by Christof Heyns to intervene in the matter. Given his longstanding human rights commitment and achievements, we have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Heyns will work assiduously to ensure that justice is done in this matter,” the group stated.

According to Mumuni, the four other special rapporteurs who would accompany Heyns are Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Méndez; Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence; Pablo de Greiff; chair, Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mads Andenas,; and Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism, Ben Emmerson.






     

     

    The group had argued in the petition that the military trial held in secret was “a mockery of justice” and ignored issues raised by the condemned men that “suggest lack of transparency, accountability and general deficiencies” in the handling of the security budget and arms purchases.

    Presenting an argument that the statutes of international law require that the highest standards of fairness, due process and justice must be upheld in cases involving capital punishment, SERAP had also stated in the petition that this could not be said with trial of the condemned soldiers.

    The international body’s human rights experts are part of Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights Council.

    Special Procedures refers to the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

     

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