Ban on #BringBackOurGirls Protest a Substantial Blow to Right to Peaceful Protest—SERAP
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called the ban on the #bringbackourgirls protest a “substantial blow to the rights to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and assembly, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.”
The group urged President Goodluck Jonathan “to urgently instruct Mr Mbu to rescind the ban imposed on the #bringbackourgirls protest and to allow the organizers to exercise their constitutional and internationally recognized human rights to freedom of expression, and assembly.”
“Any leaders genuinely concerned with the well-being of democracy in Nigeria and its people should send a clear message that these authoritarian practices are unacceptable. The Nigerian authorities should honor that, and allow the #bringbackourgirls protest organizers to peacefully express concerns related to the missing Chibok schoolgirls,” the group further stated.
SERAP in a statement today signed by its executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said that, “International law allows only narrow restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and protest, which should be narrowly defined, and any restrictions need to be proportionate, only permissible to the extent they are strictly necessary.”
“In the case of the #bringbackourgirls protest, the excuse of a threat to security put forward by Mr Mbu is totally untenable and not supported by law. Terms such as “national security” and “public safety” refer to situations involving an immediate and violent threat to the nation or to its territorial integrity or political independence. A total and indefinite prohibition on peaceful assembly, especially in the capital city, is a violation of the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments,” the group also said.
The group also said that, “It is entirely unacceptable that the police will have to decide for Nigerians what is ‘legitimate protest.’ This ban won’t make us a safer society and it will only serve to undermine basic human rights, and make the country a laughing stock among civilized nations.”
“In the 2004 case of Ziliberberg v. Moldova, the European Court of Human Rights found that “an individual does not cease to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly as a result of sporadic violence or other punishable acts committed by others in the course of the demonstration, if the individual in question remains peaceful in his or her own intentions or behaviour,” the group also said.
According to the group, “Nigeria is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which declares in its Article 21: the right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. Nigeria is also a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which states in Article 11: Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others.”
The group also said that, “The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the ICCPR, has ruled that states should always be guided by the principle that the restrictions they impose on the right to protest and assembly must not impair the essence of the right, and that the relation between right and restriction, between norm and exception, must not be reversed.”
“The focus of freedom of assembly is clearly on its democratic function in the process of forming, expressing and implementing political opinions. The democratic function of freedom of assembly means that States are under a stronger duty to ensure the right with positive measures than with civil rights, which are exclusively exercised for private interests,” the group also said.
“As the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association stated, ‘organizers of peaceful assemblies should not be coerced to follow the authorities’ suggestions if these would undermine the essence of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.’ Thus, the Special Rapporteur condemned the practice of allowing a demonstration to take place, but only in the outskirts of the city or in a specific square, where its impact will be muted,” the group also highlighted.
The Federal Capital Territory Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu on Monday banned all protests over the 234 abducted Chibok school girls in the territory with immediate effect on the ground that the protest was posing a serious security threat.
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