The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has accused the federal and Kogi State governments of unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment of two human rights activists.
SERAP has therefore dragged them before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over the cases of activists Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka.
The group in a letter dated 25th May, 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare called on the United Nations to intervene.
It argued that the activists did nothing wrong as they were only exercising their right to peaceful protest before they were picked up.
SERAP said: “The arrest and continued detention of Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka is an egregious violation of their human rights. The Nigerian and Kogi state authorities have violated the following rights under the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended) and international law in continuing to detain Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka: the right to be free from arbitrary detention; the right freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and the right to due process of law.”
It added that “The detention of Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty because it does not have any legal justification. The detention also does not meet minimum international standards of due process.”
SERAP is calling on the Working Group to “initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the cases of Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka, and urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian and Kogi state authorities inquiring about the case generally, and specifically about the legal basis for their arrest, detention, and ill-treatment, each of which is in violation of international law.”
SERAP is also urging the Working Group to “issue an opinion declaring that Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka’s deprivation of liberty and detention is arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international law. We also urge the Working Group to call for the immediate release of Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka.”
According to SERAP, “We urge the Working Group to request the Nigerian and Kogi state authorities to investigate and hold accountable all persons responsible for the unlawful arrest, continued detention, and ill-treatment of Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka in Kogi state.”
SERAP is also calling on the Working Group “to request the Nigerian and Kogi state authorities to award Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka adequate compensation for the violations they have endured as a result of their unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment.”
The complaint addressed to Ms. Elina Steinerte Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, read in part: “As set forth in this Individual Complaint, the Nigerian and Kogi State authorities are arbitrarily depriving Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka of their liberty and continues to arbitrarily detain them. Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka are citizens of Nigeria and have been detained since 5th April, 2021. They continue to be detained without access to the outside world.”
“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 respectfully requests the Working Group to initiate the procedure involving the investigation of individual cases toward reaching an opinion declaring Larry Emmanuel and Victor Anene Udoka’s detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international 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 and Kogi State authorities.”
“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 peaceful dissent from government policy.”
“The wave of protests against repression by both the Federal and Kogi state authorities illustrate 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 failure to hold to account those responsible has continued to increase the vulnerability of protesters and activists in the country.”
“SERAP is seriously concerned that the Nigerian and Kogi state authorities have so far failed and/or neglected to address or redress the attacks on the 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 and Kogi state 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.”
“Emmanuel Larry and Victor Anen Udoka’s social activism and calls for peaceful protests led to escalating government harassment and their eventual arrest and detention. They are two of several youths who have been protesting against the Federal government.”
“There was no warrant for Emmanuel Larry and Victor Anen Udoka’s arrest and they have been in detention for over forty days without bail, which has become a recurring pattern of the Nigerian authorities’ disdainful, illegal arrest and detention of protesters, journalists and activists”
“According to their lawyer, Benjami Omeiza, he has no access to Emmanuel Larry and Victor Anen Udoka and that while he was negotiating for their release, Kogi State quickly arranged for a Magistrate to order their detention in Prison, ex-parte (without notice). They have been in Prison for over forty days afterwards. They have not been formally charged nor arraigned before any competent court of jurisdiction; neither have they been released.”
“The attacks are coming on the heels of similar violent attacks by the military and the police on the #EndSars protesters demanding proscription of the erstwhile dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and violation of human rights by security agents in October, 2020 and the other protesters in March, 2021.”