Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked a group of five United Nations human rights independent experts to individually and jointly request that the mass death sentences imposed on 54 Nigerian soldiers found guilty of mutiny should not be carried out.
The Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a petition to the rights group, said it was not right or fair to try everyone in mass proceedings, and that such unfair trial should not send someone to the gallows.
He asked the group to make the request to the Nigerian government and the military.
Mr Mumuni emphasised that imposition of mass death sentences was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria was a party.
“This Covenant limits the circumstances in which a state can impose the death sentence,” he said.
The five special rapporteurs are: Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez; Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff; Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mads Andenas and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson.
End Death Penalty
To the rights experts, SERAP said: “You have consistently and jointly taken similar actions in the past including with respect to Egypt, and we respectfully urge you to follow this path in the instance case to continue your record of working to end the death penalty in all countries”.
The petition, dated 23 December 2014 and copied to Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, also stated that, “under international law, cases involving capital punishment, such as the present one, require the full and scrupulous respect of the guarantees of highest standards of fairness, due process and justice.
“All human rights depend for their enjoyment the right to life, which is the most fundamental of all rights. The right to life symbolizes everything that the United Nations works and stands for, be it in the area of peace and security, development or human rights. To reject the act of irreversibly taking someone’s life is to embrace belief in human progress and dignity”.
SERAP also argued that “the imposition of mass death sentences is unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights. The UN General Assembly to which Nigeria is a member has called for a worldwide moratorium on execution. In fact, the Special Rapporteurs have pointed out that the right to life is a fundamental right, not a toy to be played with. If the death penalty is to be used at all in countries which have not abolished it, international law requires the most stringent respect of a number of fundamental standards”.
The organisation further stated that, “the UN has also acknowledged the discriminatory and arbitrary nature of judicial processes and the danger of the death penalty being used as a tool of repression”.
It has documented evidence to show that the death penalty is no deterrent, stressing that “depriving a human person of his or her life is incompatible with the trend in the twenty-first century”.
“The issues raised by the soldiers suggest lack of transparency, accountability and general deficiencies in the way the security budget and arms purchases are decided and controlled,” the organisation also stated.
Publicly Express Concerns
In the organisation’s requests to the Special Rapporteurs are for; the group to individually and jointly to Publicly express concerns about the mass imposition of death sentences on the soldiers; publicly express concerns about the lack of clarity of the charges under which each of the soldiers was sentenced to death; urgently request the Nigerian government and its military authorities to quash the 54 death sentences imposed on the 54 soldiers for failing to meet even the basic requirements of fair trials and to declare that the imposition of mass death sentences on the soldiers made a mockery of justice.
The Special Rapporteurs were also asked to continue to follow closely the situation and remind the Nigerian authorities of the need for the Nigerian society to be based on justice, and full respect of human rights, request the Nigerian authorities to exercise their legal authority to commute the death sentences and pardon the 54 soldiers and request the Nigerian authorities to impose moratoriums on executions and pave the way for the full abolition of the death penalty.
On Wednesday, December 17, 2014, the Nigerian Army’s 7 division General Court Martial convicted 54 soldiers for conspiracy to commit mutiny and sentenced them to death by firing squad.
The facts of the case indicated that the soldiers, from the 111 Special Forces, were charged for disobeying a direct order from their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Opurum, to take part in an operation to recapture Delwa, Bulabulin and Damboa in Borno State from Boko Haram terrorists on August 4.
The United Nations human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.
Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.