African Commission asks Jonathan to rescind directive on execution of prisoners on death row

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Banjul, The Gambia, has requested President Goodluck Jonathan to rescind his directive to the 36 states of the Federation of Nigeria asking them to begin execution of prisoners on death row across the country, the  Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has said.
SERAP said the Commission confirmed the order to it yesterday through Commissioner Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi, Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty, and Mary Maboreke, Secretary of the African Commission, Mary Maboreke.
SERAP also confirmed that the order had been sent to President Jonathan through the Ministry of External Affairs.
The Commission is the body charged with overseeing states parties’ compliance with their legal obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.
The Commission’s order followed a petition filed by SERAP through its Solicitor Femi Falana, SAN.
Reacting to the African Commission’s decision Mr. Falana said, “This is a landmark decision and one which shows the willingness of the Commission to assert its authority in critical situations such as the present one, in order to ensure full protection of the human rights of the African people, and to hold African governments responsible for their legal obligations under the African Charter.”
Mr. Falana also said that “It is absolutely important that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Muhammed Adoke moves swiftly to ensure full and effective compliance with the Provisional Order that has been issued by the Commission.”
“It would be recalled that the Commission in 1993 issued a Provisional Order restraining former military leader General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida from executing General Zamani Lekwot and others sentenced to death under the Civil Disturbances (Special Tribunal) Act no 2 of 1987, which does not provide for any judicial appeal against the decisions of the special tribunals and prohibits the courts from reviewing any aspect of the operation of the tribunal. General Babangida obeyed the order.
“It would also be recalled that the Commission in 2009 issued a similar order asking former Libyan leader the late Muammar al-Gaddafi not to execute over 200 Nigerians on death row in that country. al-Gaddafi obeyed the order, and many of the Nigerians were sent back home. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever why President Jonathan should not obey the Commission’s order in this case,” Falana also stated.
According to Mr. Falana, “As a key player in the African Union, Nigeria should now show leadership and good example by taking steps to immediately implement the decision requiring it to reverse the directive on execution of prisoners on death row, and to uphold the resolutions on moratorium on executions adopted by both the African Commission and the UN General Assembly.”
“Nigeria cannot plead its domestic laws to override its good faith obligations under international law. Ultimately, the government must align itself with the global trend towards abolishing the death penalty.”
In its request for provisional measures, dated June 25, 2013, SERAP had asked the African Commission to “urgently exercise its authority to request Nigeria to immediately withdraw the directive by President Goodluck Jonathan to 36 states of the Federation of Nigeria to execute all death row prisoners, and fully accord the prisoners their fair trial and other human rights.”
The request for provisional measures was submitted in conjunction with SERAP’s communication to the African Commission.
According to the organization, “Unless the African Commission urgently intervenes in this case, there is a risk of irreversible denial of several death row prisoners in Nigeria, which in turn will render nugatory the resolutions on moratorium on executions by the African Commission and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.”


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  • Frank

    The same Commission advised Gambia in 2012 to not to execute those on death penalty but was ignored and the executions carried out in August 2012. GEJ and state governors should ignore them. Nonsense!

  • Omo Akin

    The Commission must have issued the said order based on misinformation by the applicants. Death sentence is still part of the law of Nigeria. If the appeal process of a death sentence is exhausted, the Commission has no right to order a sovereign authority not to carry out the sentence. For the “Human Rights” community, where is the human right for a woman brutally raped and killed? What about those who were kidnapped, ransom collected from the victims’ family and victims were still killed? I recommend Justice Oputa’s writing to the rights crusaders. Justice Oputa had said that justice (and thus right and fairness) is not a one way traffic. As much as it is for the accused, so should it also be for the victim who is down there in the cold bowel of the earth and whose blood is crying for justice.
    If Nigeria is a true federation, the prison system should also be decentralized. Each State should have its own prison system. A State can decide not to execute a death row prisoner in its prison or even abolish death sentence from its books. Only people convicted under Federal Laws would be in Federal prisons. This way the President would not have cause to tell the States to sign the execution warrants for the prisoners. With the frequent jail break in Nigeria, how safe is the society from these folks when they find their way back into the society?
    As in the USA, the death sentence is still in the law books of the Federal Govt and some states whereas some states have abolished death sentence. But is still a hotly debated issue whether murderers should be spared from the death penalty even in those states that abolished death penalty.