Order DSS To Release Arrested Judges Immediately, SERAP Tells Buhari


The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to use his “good offices and leadership to urgently instruct the Department of State Service, DSS, to immediately and unconditionally release all the judges arrested by them and to ask the DSS to end continuing intimidation and harassment of the judiciary.”

The organization said that, “If following the receipt and/or publication of this letter, your government fails or refuses to immediately and unconditionally release the judges as requested, SERAP would promptly consider appropriate legal options nationally and internationally to ensure the full and effective implementation of our requests.”

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SERAP’s letter dated October 9, 2016 and signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said that, “We are seriously concerned about the wave of arrests, intimidation and harassment of judges across the country by the DSS. While we fully support the government’s efforts to eradicate judicial corruption, we cannot accept anticorruption strategies and methods which patently offend the rule of law and undermine the authority, integrity, sanctity and independence of the judiciary.”

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The letter copied to both Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Monica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers reads in part: “SERAP believes that strategies and methods to sanction suspected corrupt judges must never have an inhibiting or chilling effect on the authority, sanctity, integrity and independence of the judiciary.”

“Uncertainty of the processes and grounds on which suspected corrupt judges can be sanctioned would affect the capacity of all judges to act independently, and public confidence in the judiciary. Judges, like other constitutional functionaries must face the law if they depart from or deceive the law, such as when they are suspected of engaging in corruption. But what the DSS has done is a blow to the independence of judiciary, and a dangerous precedent that should not be allowed to stand.”

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“The value of the principle of judicial independence is that it protects judges from arbitrary sanctions by the Government. The way this country dispenses justice and treats its judges will show the moral and legal character to which it can pretend.”

“SERAP is concerned that the action by the DSS if allowed to stand or continue, would make judges susceptible to pressure from the executive. Thus, instead of fulfilling the stated aim of eradicating judicial corruption, the actions of the DSS has served to undermine the independence of the judiciary in Nigeria, and reinforce the practices under successive governments of undue political interference in the judiciary.”

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“Judicial accountability must respect the fundamental principles of the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers, and its proceedings must be in line with constitutional and international standards of due process and fair trial. Indeed, international standards require that the bodies responsible for sanctioning corrupt judges should be independent from the government, and that any legal sanction against suspected corrupt judges must be determined in accordance with well-established procedures that guarantee the rights of judges to a fair and transparent trial, and to an independent review.”


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