Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned Ms. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers over the killings of lawyers in Borno State.
The organization urged Ms. Knaul to “use your good offices and position to urgently investigate recent reports of killings and attacks against lawyers in Borno State of Nigeria by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, and the failure of the Nigerian government, and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to protect and defend lawyers who pay their practising fees to the association.”
In the petition dated 23 May 2014 and signed by Solicitor to SERAP Femi Falana, SAN, the organization expressed “concerns that apart from violating the rights of the lawyers to life, personal security and the freedom to practise their profession, increasing attacks also constitute a threat to the independence and operation of the legal profession and justice system.”
“SERAP believes that lawyers should be able to carry out their functions without risking their lives. They should receive adequate protection when their safety is threatened because of their job. Yet, neither the government nor the NBA has acted to address the crimes against lawyers,” the organization also said.
The organization also said that, “Borno State has become one of the most dangerous places for lawyers in the world especially given the continuing attacks perpetrated against lawyers with almost absolute impunity for many years. The perpetrators of the crimes against lawyers and other innocent citizens have not been held to account for their crimes.”
According to the organization, “Effective protection and prevention of attacks against lawyers is a key component of fostering the rule of law. SERAP believes that an attack against lawyers is an attack against the legal profession itself and the independence of the judiciary, and the constitutional and internationally recognized right of the people to access to justice because it aims to discourage lawyers from providing the people their legal services with utmost integrity, independence and sense of security.”
“Zanna Mallam Gana, Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of Borno State, was killed in his home in Bama on 17 September 2012. The killing of Gana has culminated in persistent attacks against lawyers and resulted in the killings of many other lawyers. Among the lawyers that have been killed by the Boko Haram are: Babagana Alkali, Modu Denjami, Ahmed Wali, Adamu Dugje, and Abubakar Sadiq. Many other lawyers like Peter Adebayo Bello and Musa Mohammed have been seriously injured,” the organization added.
The organization also said that, “Anyone assumed to be lawyers are routinely targeted by the Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. Continuing killings and attacks against lawyers in these state and in particular Borno State are compounded by the absence of support and protection mechanisms by the leadership of the NBA. The NBA has failed to even condemn or request investigation of the killings and attacks against lawyers and the entire institutions of justice and the rule of law in Borno State.”
“The Nigerian government has an obligation to provide a conducive environment and to guarantee that lawyers can carry out all their professional duties without intimidation and without risking their safety and that of their relatives,” the organization added.
The organization therefore urged Ms. Knaul to:
- Publicly condemn the killings and attacks against lawyers and call for the members of the Boko Haram and their sponsors to be held to account for these crimes;
- Request the Nigerian government to in coordination with the National Human Rights Commission carry out investigation into the killings and attacks against lawyers in Borno State and other parts of Nigeria;
- Request to visit Borno State and other parts of the Norh-East where lawyers are constantly under serious attacks in order to conduct fact finding mission and to report back to the UN Human Rights Council on your findings and action for the Council to take;
- Ask the Nigerian government to take measures to ensure effective protection of lawyers and to promote their independence, security and freedoms. Lawyers’ free and protected work reflects and strengthens the rule of law; and
- Ask the Nigerian government to ensure effective remedies for victims, including adequate compensation for the victims and their families.
SERAP Executive Director