About 48 human rights and press freedom organisations have petitioned the United Nations and African Union Special Mechanisms to intervene in the arbitrary detention of activist and convener of #RevolutionNowmovement, Omoyele Sowore.
The rights group include the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Coalition for Revolution, Open Society for West Africa, Nigerians in Diaspora Europe (Belgium-Luxembourg), Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda among others.
Sowore, a vocal public affairs commentator for good governance, was arrested by operatives of the Department of State Services on August 3 for calling on Nigerians to express their frustration at the poor state of leadership in the country and has since been held despite growing calls for his freedom.
The 48 organisations, who petitioned the UN and AU, argued that the treat of Sowore constitutes a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to a fair trial, right to freedom of expression, right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and his rights as a human rights defender.
The organisations, assisted by Nani Jansen Reventlow from Doughty Street Chambers, are calling upon the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the situation of human rights defenders, and African Commission Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and human rights defenders to intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Sowore and declare his arrest and continued detention a gross violation of his human rights.
“The arrest and detention of Sahara Reporter's founder, Omoyele Sowore, is without doubt a threat to press freedom and investigative journalism in Nigeria,” said Chief Operating Officer of Sahara Reporters, La Keisha Landrum Pierre.
“Sowore has used the word ‘revolution’ contextually to mean ‘change for the better’ since he founded Sahara Reporters in 2006.
“He then stated that he would “revolutionise” the way news is being reported: something he actually did by leading the pioneering efforts in citizen journalism in Nigeria.
“We are shocked that a government that rode to power on the promise to wipe out corruption and be the ‘voice of the voiceless’ is trying to silence the call for change by the same people who elected it,” she added.
Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship, Joy Hyvarinen, said, “Index on Censorship urges the Nigerian authorities to release prominent journalist and campaigner, Omoyele Sowore, immediately.
“The arrest and detention are a shocking violation of Sowore's human rights, which calls into question Nigeria's willingness and ability to meet international human rights obligations.”