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Nigeria: Fear of ill-treatment / possible prisoner of conscience: Nnimmo Bassey

, Index number: AFR 44/011/1996

The above, a 37-year-old architect, journalist, writer, environmental and human rights campaigner, was detained on 5 June 1996 as he was leaving the country to attend a conference in Ghana organized by Friends of the Earth. He has not been charged with any offence and it is not clear whether he is being held incommunicado. AI fears that he may be facing ill-treatment in detention.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 44/11/96
UA 145/96 Fear of ill-treatment /
Possible prisoner of conscience 13 June 1996
NIGERIANnimmo Bassey, 37, architect, environment and human rights campaigner,
writer and journalist
Nnimmo Bassey, a leading environmental and human rights campaigner, was detained
on 5 June 1996 as he was leaving the country to attend a conference in Ghana
organized by the international environmental organization, Friends of the
Earth. Amnesty International fears that he may be facing ill-treatment in
detention. It is not clear whether he is being held incommunicado.
He was initially held at the Lagos headquarters of the State Security Service,
the security police, in Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, and subsequently by the criminal
investigation police, the Federal Investigations and Intelligence Bureau
(FIIB). He is believed to be currently held at FIIB headquarters in Alagbon
Close, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The reasons for his arrest are unclear. He has not been charged with any offence
but is believed to be detained under the State Security (Detention of Persons)
Decree, No 2 of 1984. This provides for the indefinite incommunicado detention
without charge or trial of any person deemed to have threatened the security
or the economy of the state. The police have apparently said that he was wanted
in connection with protests in Benin City and Ekpoma in Edo State in July and
August 1994 in which the homes of a government minister and other government
supporters were destroyed and in which some students were alleged to have been
unlawfully killed by the security forces. He was among 35 people declared
"wanted" by the authorities at the time. At least 30 people, mostly students,
were detained in Benin City; many were reported to have been beaten severely
at police stations before being transferred to Oko Prison where they were held
in harsh conditions. However, the authorities have not arrested Nnimmo Bassey
before this time, even though there have been many opportunities to do so,
and it seems that his attendance at an international conference of
environmentalists may have been the real reason for his arrest. The Nigerian
government has on many occasions prevented human rights activists from
travelling abroad for such meetings by seizing their passports or detaining
them.
On 12 June 1996 the government announced the revocation of a 1994 amendment
to Decree 2, which had specifically prohibited the courts from ordering
detainees to be produced before them. However, it remains to be seen whether
judicial review of security detentions will be allowed. Even unamended, Decree
2 prohibits any legal proceedings against the government for action taken under
the Decree or any court action to contest any detention which contravenes the
fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution, and the military government
has routinely ignored court orders.
Nnimmo Bassey is Chairman of Environmental Rights Action and of the Southern
Zone of the Civil Liberties Organization, both leading Nigerian rights groups.
He is also a leading member of OilWatch International, a new support network
for communities affected by the oil industry, as well as President of African
Architecture and Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Authors,
both Nigerian organizations.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
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Political prisoners in Nigeria have been subjected to torture or ill-treatment,
including severe beatings and serious medical neglect. They are held in harsh
conditions in police cells and prisons which amount to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment. Detainees have reported being deprived of food and water
for several days following arrest, and there is a high death rate in prisons
from malnutrition and medical neglect.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in English or your own language:
- expressing concern at the arrest on 5 June 1996 and subsequent detention
of leading environmentalist and human rights activist Nnimmo Bassey;
- asking to be informed of the reasons for Nnimmo Bassey's detention and
expressing concern that he may have been imprisoned because of his environmental
and human rights activities;
- urging that Nnimmo Bassey be allowed full and immediate access to his lawyer
and family, and to appropriate medical care;
- calling for his release unless he is promptly to be charged with a recognizably
criminal offence and fairly tried according to international standards for
fair trial.
APPEALS TO:
General Sani Abacha
Chairman, Provisional Ruling Council
State House, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria
Telegrams: General Abacha, Abuja, Nigeria
Faxes: + 234 9 523 2138
Telexes: (0905) 91529 or 91530 EXTNAL NG
Salutation: Dear General
Mr Michael Agbamuche
Minister of Justice and Attorney General
Ministry of Justice, PMB 130, Abuja
Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria
Telegrams: Justice Minister, Abuja, Nigeria
Salutation: Dear Minister
Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie
Inspector General of Police
Nigeria Police Force Headquarters
Garki, Abuja, Nigeria
Telegrams: Police Inspector General, Police HQ, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria
Salutation: Dear Inspector General
COPIES TO:
Chief Tom Ikimi, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Maputo Street, PMB 130, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria
The Editor, The News, PMB 21531, Ijeka, Lagos, Nigeria
The Editor, Tell, PMB 21749, Ijeka, Lagos, Nigeria
The Editor, Vanguard, PMB 1007, Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria
The Editor, The Guardian, PMB 1217, Oshodi, Lagos, Nigeria
and to diplomatic representatives of Nigeria accredited to your country.
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PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 9 August 1996.

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