• Campaigns

Nigeria: Further information on: prisoner of conscience / legal concern / health concern

, Index number: AFR 44/034/1996

Chief Gani Fawehinmi, aged about 57, lawyer, human rights activist, President of the National Conscience Party (NCP); Femi Falana, lawyer, human rights activist, President of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers, Femi Aborisade, leading member of the NCP, human rights activist: On 20 November 1996 the three prisoners of conscience named above were released unconditionally. The authorities have given no explanation for their incommunicado detention without charge or trial which lasted for nearly a year.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 44/34/96
26 November 1996
Further information on UA 21/96 (AFR 44/02/96, 31 January 1996, AFR 44/06/96,
16 February) - Prisoner of conscience / Legal concern / Health concern
NIGERIAChief Gani Fawehinmi, aged about 57, lawyer, human rights
activist, President of the National Conscience Party (NCP)
Femi Falana, lawyer, human rights activist, President of the
National Association of Democratic Lawyers
Femi Aborisade, leading member of the NCP, human rights
activist
On 20 November 1996 the three prisoners of conscience named above were released
unconditionally from detention. The authorities have given no explanation
for their detention, incommunicado and without charge or trial, for nearly
a year.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi was arrested at his home in Lagos on 30 January 1996,
Femi Falana and Femi Aborisade on 14 February. They have been detained under
the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree, No. 2 of 1984, which provides
for the indefinite detention, incommunicado and without charge or trial, of
any person deemed to have threatened the security of the state. Their release
has been just as arbitrary -- timed to coincide with the visit to Nigeria of
the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (see below), apparently to convey
the impression that the human rights situation in Nigeria has improved.
However, such political releases underline how prisoners of conscience have
effectively been used as hostages. Decree 2 and other decrees which exclude
the jurisdiction of the courts to question or challenge any action by the
military government have undermined the rule of law in Nigeria and encouraged
government agencies to flout the law with impunity.
Following their release, the three men were provided with no assistance to
return to their homes and families. This took some time -- Gani Fawehinmi
had been held in Bauchi Prison in northern Nigeria, more than 800 kilometres
from his home in Lagos. The released detainees complained about the harsh
conditions and lack of adequate medical care while they were in detention.
FURTHER BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) was set up in the international
outcry following the Ogoni executions in November 1995 when Nigeria was
suspended from the Commonwealth. In June 1996, at the time of a ministerial
meeting between Nigeria and CMAG governments, the Nigerian authorities
announced the release of some prisoners of conscience. CMAG delayed sanctions
it had agreed to impose on Nigeria. However, the minor concessions made by
the Nigerian authorities leave intact legal provisions allowing the arbitrary
detention, grossly unfair trial and execution of prisoners of conscience, and
the Nigerian authorities have continued to deny access to a fact-finding mission
by the Commonwealth. There has been criticism of CMAG's decision to send
Commonwealth ministers to Nigeria for government talks without any assurances
that they would be able to meet political prisoners or groups critical of the
government. The mission visited Nigeria from 18 to 20 November 1996.
Canada, the only member of CMAG which has been consistently critical of Nigeria's
human rights record and which in August imposed sanctions unilaterally on
Nigeria, withdrew its delegate when the Nigerian authorities refused visas
to its security officials.
2
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send airmail letters in English or in your
own language:
- welcoming the unconditional release of prisoners of conscience Chief Gani
Fawehinmi, Femi Falana and Femi Aborisade on the occasion of the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group visit to Nigeria;
- expressing concern that the Nigerian government's failure to revoke the State
Security (Detention of Persons) Decree, No. 2 of 1984, which poses a continuing
threat to the three men and other human rights defenders who dare publicly
to criticize the government, even following their release, and calling for
its revocation;
- expressing concern also that, while in detention, they were held in harsh
and life-threatening conditions, and denied proper medical care and all access
to their families and lawyers in contravention of court orders;
- calling for an end to medical neglect of prisoners and life-threatening prison
conditions, and the introduction of safeguards to prevent them in future which
should include immediate access for all prisoners to lawyers, families and
medical care of their own choice.
PLEASE ORGANIZE APPEALS FROM LAWYERS AND HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
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
Lieutenant-General D. Oladipo Diya
Vice-Chairman, Provisional Ruling Council and Chief of General Staff
State House
Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, Nigeria
Telegrams: Lieutenant-General Diya, Abuja, Nigeria
Salutation: Dear Lieutenant-General
Alhaji Ibrahim Coomasie
Inspector General of Police
Nigeria Police Force Headquarters
Garki, Abuja
Telegrams: Inspector General Coomasie, Police Headquarter, 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, National Concord,POB 4483, Ikeja,Lagos, Nigeria
3
The Editor, The Punch, PMB 21204, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
The Editor, Tempo, PMB 21531, Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria
The Editor, Theweek, PO Box 11333, Ikeja, Lagos
and to diplomatic representatives of Nigeria accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 31 December 1996.

Choose a language to view report