The United Nations, UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, has called for unconditional release and compensation of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
This is even as the UN Working Group indicted both Nigeria and Kenya Governments for Kanu’s arrest and extraordinary rendition, torture and his continued detention without due process.
In a memo received by Vanguard Newspaper, UN asked the Nigerian Government to, “immediate release Kanu unconditionally” and pay him adequate compensations for the arbitrary violation of his fundamental human rights.
AbaCityBlog reports that Kanu was arrested and extradited to Nigeria from Kenya in June last year. Since his illegal extradition, Kanu has been charged to Court by the Nigerian government on charges bordering on terrorism and treason.
However, the UN Working Group in its memo to the Nigerian government recommended that Government officials responsible for the torture meted to the IPOB Leader be investigated and punished.
The UN body further directed Nigeria to report back within six months of the transmission of its opinions on Kanu’s matter, steps taken to comply with all the recommendations thereof.
It referred the case of Kanu’s torture to Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for further consideration.
The UN Working Group also threatened to take further action to ensure the recommendations are complied with, noting that both Nigeria and Kenya are signatories to the Convention and should comply.
The 16-page report dated July 20, 2022 was adopted on April 4 by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its 93rd session, held between March 30 – April 8, 2022.
The unedited version of the document sighted by Vanguard, was marked:”Opinion No. 25/2022 concerning Mr. Nwannekaenyi Nnamdi Kenny Okwu-Kanu (Nigeria and Kenya).
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established in resolution 1991/42 of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
In accordance with its methods of work, the Working Group, on December 30, 2021, transmitted to the Nigeria and Kenya Governments, a communication concerning Mr. Nwannekaenyi Nnamdi Kenny Okwu-Kanu.
According to the report, Nigeria replied to the communication on 25 January 2022 while the Government of Kenya did not reply.
The Working Group said in the report that Kanu was a victim of State persecution as Nigeria failed to provide convincing explanations with proof that he is guilty of treason and other criminal allegations levelled against him.
Read the full memo below.
“Noting the failure of the Government to explain what actions of Mr. Kanu amounted to such criminal acts and how, and observing the lack of any evidence that any of his actions may in fact amount to such crimes, the Working Group concludes that Mr. Kanu is in fact being persecuted for the peaceful exercise of his rights, most notably his freedom of opinion and expression.
“In the present case, the Government of Nigeria has presented no exceptions permitted under article 19 (3) of the Covenant nor is there any evidence to suggest that Mr. Kanu’s exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression was anything but peaceful.
”In fact, the Government has chosen not to provide any explanation for the arrest, detention and subsequent proceedings against Mr. Kanu. In these circumstances, the Working Group concludes that Mr. Kanu’s detention is thus arbitrary under category II”, UN Working Group said.
The Working Group also said there was no evidence that International laws were observed in the arrest and rendition of Kanu from Kenya.
The 16-page dossier read in part: “In the present case, Mr. Kanu was not furnished with an arrest warrant by Nigerian authorities nor was he promptly informed of the grounds for his arrest in Nigeria.
“Consequently, the Working Group finds that Mr. Kanu’s continued deprivation of liberty violates his rights under articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article
9 of the Covenant, and principles 2, 4, and 10 of the Body of Principles and constitutes arbitrary detention under category I.”
“Turning to the uncontested allegations that following his rendition to Nigeria,
Mr. Kanu remained in pre-trial detention with his trial having been scheduled to commence
in January 2022, the Working Group recalls that it is a well-established norm of international law that pre-trial detention should be the exception rather than the rule, and should be ordered for the shortest time possible. Put differently, liberty is recognised under article 9 (3) of the Covenant as the core consideration with detention merely as an exception.
“Therefore, detention pending trial must be based on an individualised determination that it is reasonable and necessary for such purposes as to prevent flight, interference with evidence or the recurrence of crime. Such determination was not carried out in the present case, in violation of Mr. Kanu’s rights under article 9 (3) of the Covenant.
“Further, in accordance with article 9 (3) of the Covenant, an arrested person is to be brought before a judge within 48 hours.27 This was not satisfied in the case of Mr. Kanu and the Working Group therefore finds a violation of articles 3 and 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 9 (3) of the Covenant and principles 11, 37 and 38 of the Body of Principles.
“Furthermore, in order to establish that a detention is indeed legal, anyone detained has the right to challenge the legality of his or her detention before a court, as guaranteed by article 9 (4) of the Covenant.
“The Working Group wishes to recall that according to the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Remedies and Procedures on the Rights of Anyone Deprived of their Liberty to Bring Proceedings before a Court, the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a court is a self-standing human right, which is essential to preserve legality in a democratic society.
“Moreover, it also applies “irrespective of the place of detention or the legal terminology used in the legislation. Any form of deprivation of liberty on any ground must be subject to effective oversight and control by the judiciary. This was also denied to Mr. Kanu, thus, violating his right under article 9 (4) of the Covenant.
“Finally, turning to Mr. Kanu’s pre-trial detention in Nigeria, the Working Group recalls that according to international human rights law, in particular article 9 (3) of the Covenant, any person detained while awaiting trial is entitled to trial within a reasonable time, or otherwise shall be released.
“Article 14 (3) (c) of the Covenant also guarantees the right of anyone charged with a criminal offence to be tried without undue delay. In the absence of a substantive response from the Government of Nigeria, the Working Group finds no legitimate grounds for the delays in the trials against Mr. Kanu.
“Consequently, the Working Group finds that the Government of Nigeria failed to establish a legal basis for the detention of Mr. Kanu. His detention is thus arbitrary under category I.”