Friday, 2 October 2009

Libya halts execution of Nigerians on death row

Libya halts execution of Nigerians on death row

By Davidson Iriekpen, 10.01.2009 
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Temporary relief has come the way of Nigerians on death row in Libya as the country's authorities have agreed to stop their execution. The suspension was made  pending the final determination of a case brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in Banjul, The Gambia.
THISDAY gathered the decision by Libya followed a Provisional Measure issued by the African Commission which ordered the country to halt the execution.
The North African country's adherence to the measure was made known in a paper titled Debating the Death Penalty: Experiences from Different Regions, dated September 25, 2009 and presented by a member of the African Commission, Ms Catherine Modupe Atoki, at the International Peace Institute in New York last week.
“Early September this year, a communication was filed with the African Commission against Libya by a Nigerian Non-Governmental Organi-zation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). It alleged that over 200 Nigerians are on death row for offences ranging from immigration, murder, drug and armed robbery. 

"The Commission requested from the President of Libya a provisional measure to stay execution pending the determination of the communication. Happily, the President obliged and for now there is a hold on the execution of the convicted persons," said Atoki who delivered the paper.
It was gathered that one of the prisoners, Miss Juliet Okoro, reportedly claimed that the accusation of murder for which she has been placed on death row since 2000 was forged. Her indictment, she further claimed, followed no legal representation.
However, Okoro confirmed that the Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi had granted amnesty to the convicts who are waiting for the Nigerian embassy in Libya to sign some documents for their deportation.
SERAP’s lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, welcomed the news of suspension but challenged the Nigerian government to be more responsive to its citizens abroad.

“It is now time for the Nigerian government to show responsibility by immediately ensuring the safety and well-being of the Nigerians on death row in Libya, and facilitating their safe return back home. The continuing silence and inaction of the Nigerian government on this matter is a failure of leadership and simply unacceptable,” Falana said. 

The feisty lawyer asked President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua to rise up to the occasion in defending the rights of Nigerians across the world. According to him, the Libya case is proof that the rights of Nigerians outside the country could be protected when and if their government takes action.
It is important for the government do discharge its "Constitutional and International responsibility," towards Nigerians he added. Falana commended the Chairman of the House Committee on Diaspora, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, and SERAP for fighting for the rights of the condemned persons.
SERAP had through its solicitor, Falana, filed a case before the African Commission on September 6 2009, on behalf of the prisoners.
He alleged "serious, persistent and irreparable violations of the Complainants’ rights to life; to communicate with their embassy or consular post; to competent and effective legal representation; to trial within a reasonable time or to a release; to trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law; to the presumption of innocence; to an interpreter and to translation; to appeal to an independent and impartial tribunal, and fair trial guarantees during appeals.”
The Commission in the Provisional Measures with reference number ACHPR/ PROVM/LIB/01/75, dated September  9, 2009, and signed by Acting Chairperson of the Commission, Bahame Tom Mukirya NYANDUGA, expressed concern about Nigerians on death row and those held under "inhuman and degrading treatment," in Libya.
The Provisional Measures reads in part: “The Complaint has been registered as a Communication against Libya. I would also like to inform you that the Communication shall be tabled before the African Commission, for seizure during its next Ordinary Session, which is scheduled to take place from 11-25 November 2009, and will subsequently be sent to the authorities.” 

The Commission also said: “In accordance with Rule 111(3) of the Rules of Procedure of the African Commission, I urge you to intervene in the matter with the view of preventing irreparable damage being caused to the victims while the African Commission inquires about the veracity of the Complaint. The appeal is particularly pertinent in respect of the imprisoned Nigerians, whom the Complainant alleges that they await the death penalty.” 

The African Commission is the body charged with overseeing compliance with legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.