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Death Sentence: Group Drags Nigerian Army Before UN Over 54 Indicted Soldiers

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked a group of five United Nations human rights independent experts to individually and jointly use their offices and positions to urgently request the Nigerian government and its military authorities not to carry out the mass death sentences imposed on 54 Nigerian soldiers for what the government claimed was disobeying a direct order from their commanding officer.

The five special rapporteurs are: Christ of Heyns, Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence; Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; and Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

“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 organization urged the experts.

In a petition signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni the group said that, “It is not right or fair to try everyone in mass proceedings, and that such unfair trial should not send someone to the gallows. Imposition of mass death sentences is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a party. This Covenant limits the circumstances in which a state can impose the death sentence.”

The petition copied to Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also states 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.

According to the organization, “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 stated 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 organization stated further 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,” it said.

The organization therefore asked the Special Rapporteurs individually and jointly to publicly express concerns about the mass imposition of death sentences on the soldiers and publicly express concerns about the lack of clarity of the charges under which each of the soldiers was sentenced to death.

It urgently requested 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 declared that the imposition of mass death sentences on the soldiers made a mockery of justice.

SERAP asked the UN 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 and request the Nigerian authorities to exercise their legal authority to commute the death sentences and pardon the 54 soldiers as well as request the Nigerian authorities to impose moratoriums on executions and pave the way for the full abolition of the death penalty.



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