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General News of Wednesday, 6 January 2021


FG dragged to UN over alleged torture, detention of Sowore, others

File photo: Omoyele Sowore, Journalist File photo: Omoyele Sowore, Journalist

The Federal Government was yesterday dragged before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over alleged torture and detention of Omoyele Sowore and four other activists.

Sowore, a journalist, and the four other activists were at midnight of January 1, 2021, arrested by policemen from Apo Division, Abuja, over #CrossoverWithProtest, a planned procession across the country on New Year Eve against alleged bad governance.

The activists were allegedly tortured and made to suffer other maltreatments before they were detained. Sowore was left with bruises all over his body in an apparent use of excessive force by the police officers.

The accused persons were subsequently arraigned at the Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 2 on Monday, January 4, 2021, on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly and attempting to incite others. They pleaded not guilty and were remanded in Kuje Prison.
But Lagos-based Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a complaint letter to the Working Group, urged the UN group to request the Nigerian authorities to withdraw the charges against Sowore and the four other activists and to immediately and unconditionally release them.

In the complaint letter dated January 4, 2021, and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP argued that the detention of Sowore and others constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty because it does not have any legal justification.

SERAP also argued, in the letter addressed to Mr José Guevara Bermúdez, chairman/rapporteur of the Working Group, that the detention does not meet minimum international standards of due process.

“The arrest continued detention and torture and ill-treatment of Sowore and four other activists solely for peacefully exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is a flagrant violation of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended) and international human rights law. They are now facing bogus charges simply for exercising their human rights.”

The group, therefore, urged the UN to “initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the detention, torture and bogus charges against Sowore and four other activists, and to urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian government inquiring about the case generally, and specifically about the legal basis for their arrest, detention, torture and other ill-treatment, each of which is in violation of international human rights law.”

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