Mr. Leandro DESPOUY
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Special Procedures Division
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Email: E-mail : [email protected]
Dear Mr. Leandro DESPOUY:
Re: Complaint against the government of Nigeria over attacks on the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and denial of access to court
1. Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project (SERAP), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC) and Partnership for Justice (PFJ) respectfully submit the present Complaint to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers over attacks by the Nigerian government on the independence and impartiality of Nigerian courts, and denial of his right of access to court, as part of his internationally recognized right to an effective remedy.
2. Following the alleged demotion by the police authorities (through the Nigerian Police Service Commission) of Mr Nuhu Ribadu, former Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from the rank of an Assistant Inspector-General of Police to Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr Ribadu approached the court to challenge the demotion and to seek redress.
3. However, while Mr Ribadu’s case against the police is still pending before the court, the police authorities purportedly announced the dismissal of Mr Ribadu from the police force on the same matters pending before the court.
4. We are concerned that in dismissing Mr Ribadu from the police, the authorities failed to follow internationally recognized fair trial standards
5. We are also concerned that the alleged dismissal of Mr Ribadu while he has cases in court on the same subject matter, and despite the fact that the Nigerian government through its agents has submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the court, directly undermines the independence and impartiality of the court and renders nugatory Mr Ribadu’s right of access to the court, and his right to an effective remedy.
6. We note that under the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, the judicial powers of the Nigerian courts extend to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law, and extend to all matters between persons or between governments or authority and any person in Nigeria and to all actions and proceedings and for the determination of any questions as to the civil rights and obligations of that person. By this Constitutional provision, superior courts can carry out judicial review of the exercise of power by the executive, including the police authorities.
7. We believe that the institutional separation of the judiciary from the other arms of the government is a necessary bulwark against all forms of political tyranny, administrative victimization and oppression.
8. We also note that Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) proclaims that: “everyone is entitled in the full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal”. Similarly, Article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights specifically guarantees to everyone “the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal in the determination . . . of any charge against him”.
9. We believe that the above statements of law reaffirm and reflect the fundamental principle of judicial independence, which requires the other two branches of government--the executive and the legislature-- to refrain from conduct that may undermine or diminish the legitimacy of the judiciary.
10. We also believe that every judge should be free to decide matters before him in accordance with his assessment of the facts and his understanding of the law without any improper influences, intimidation, or pressures, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for whatever reasons
11. We further state that judicial independence is necessary and indeed a sine qua non, not for the personal benefit of judges, but rather for the protection of those who appear before the courts, and those affected by their decisions. We believe that the security of human rights and the safety of free institutions require the absolute integrity and freedom of action of courts
12. Given the above, we believe that the dismissal of Mr Ribadu has not only rendered meaningless his right to an effective remedy, but has seriously undermined the powers, independence and authority of the court to hear the case
13. We also believe that the dismissal of Mr Ribadu undermines the rule of law, which is the establishment of individual freedoms and the protection against any manifestation of arbitrary power by the public authorities. In its proper application, the rule of law is concerned with legality, but it implies far more than mere legality and far more than ensuring that what is done by those in authority is done in accordance with law. It implies the application of hallowed principles of justice both in the context of the law and in the procedures and institutions by which it is enforced. In other words, the rule of law implies that the law can and should be an instrument of justice, a protection of the freedom and dignity of the human person
14. We believe that the action by the Nigerian government is capable of undermining the government’s ability to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws, a responsibility required by international and regional human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights t which Nigeria is a state party.
B. Requested Relief: SERAP, CDHR, WARDC and PFJ urge the Special Rapporteur to:
1. Find Nigeria in violation of international human rights obligations and standards guaranteeing the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and full and effective access to the court
2. Request the government of Nigeria to reverse the dismissal of Mr Ribadu in the interest of justice, and to allow the judicial process to take its course
3. Request to visit Nigeria to: (a) inquire into attacks upon the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, including judges, and denial of access to court as part of the right to an effective remedy raised in this Complaint (b) make proposal to the Nigerian government on means to protect and enhance the independence and impartiality of the judiciary
4. Insist that the government of Nigeria keeps the Special Rapporteur informed of the actions the government is taking to address the matter, and to comply with its international human rights obligations
Executive Director, SERAP
Executive Director, WARDC
Managing Partner, PFJ