The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Banjul, The Gambia has requested President Goodluck Jonathan to rescind his directive to the 36 states of the Federation of Nigeria asking them to begin execution of prisoners on death row across the country.
The Commission’s order was confirmed yesterday to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project by both Honourable Commissioner Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi and Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty, and the Secretary of the African Commission, Dr Mary Maboreke.
SERAP also confirmed that the order has been sent to President Jonathan through the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Commission is the body charged with overseeing states parties’ compliance with their legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.
The Commission’s order followed a petition filed by SERAP through its Solicitor Mr. Femi Falana, SAN.
Reacting to the African Commission’s decision Falana said that “This is a landmark decision and one which shows the willingness of the Commission to assert its authority in critical situations such as the present one, in order to ensure full protection of the human rights of the African people, and to hold African governments responsible for their legal obligations under the African Charter.”
Mr. Falana also said that “It is absolutely important that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Muhammed Adoke moves swiftly to ensure full and effective compliance with the Provisional Order that has been issued by the Commission.”
“It would be recalled that the Commission in 1993 issued a Provisional Order restraining former military leader General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida from executing General Zamani Lekwot and others sentenced to death under the Civil Disturbances (Special Tribunal) Act no 2 of 1987, which does not provide for any judicial appeal against the decisions of the special tribunals and prohibits the courts from reviewing any aspect of the operation of the tribunal.
General Babangida obeyed the order. It would also be recalled that the Commission in 2009 issued a similar order asking former Libyan leader the late Muammar al-Gaddafi not to execute over 200 Nigerians on death row in that country. al-Gaddafi obeyed the order, and many of the Nigerians were sent back home. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever why President Jonathan should not obey the Commission’s order in this case,” Falana also stated.
According to Falana, “As a key player in the African Union, Nigeria should now show leadership and good example by taking steps to immediately implement the decision requiring it to reverse the directive on execution of prisoners on death row, and to uphold the resolutions on moratorium on executions adopted by both the African Commission and the UN General Assembly.”
“Nigeria cannot plead its domestic laws to override its good faith obligations under international law. Ultimately, the government must align itself with the global trend towards abolishing the death penalty,” Mr Falana concluded.
Earlier, in its request for provisional measures dated 25 June 2013, SERAP asked the African Commission to “urgently exercise its authority to request Nigeria to immediately withdraw the directive by President Goodluck Jonathan to 36 states of the Federation of Nigeria to execute all death row prisoners, and fully accord the prisoners their fair trial and other human rights.” The request for provisional measures was submitted in conjunction with SERAP’s communication to the African Commission.
According to the organization, “Unless the African Commission urgently intervenes in this case, there is a risk of irreversible denial of several death row prisoners in Nigeria, which in turn will render nugatory the resolutions on moratorium on executions by the African Commission and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.”
SERAP Executive Director