SERAP Approach ECOWAS Court to Stop Execution Of Nigerians On Death Row In Gambia
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and two Nigerians on death row in The Gambia who said they are about to be executed by the government have taken their case to the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja asking the court to urgently stop their impending execution. The Nigerians involved in the case are: Micheal Ifunanya and Stanley Agbaeze.
In the suit Number ECW/CCJ/APP/11/12 filed yesterday on behalf of the plaintiffs by Femi Falana, SAN, against the Gambian government, SERAP and the Nigerians are alleging that the threat of execution while they (2nd and 3rd plaintiffs) have been denied the right to appeal “violates their human rights to right life; to due process of law; to access to justice and judicial independence; to a fair hearing; to appeal, and to effective remedy.”
According to the plaintiffs, “The 2nd and 3rd plaintiffs are among the 48 people on death row in The Gambia. Without allowing them to exhaust their right of appeal, the Gambian government has threatened the Plaintiffs on or about 15 August 2012 to execute them and all other persons on death row in The Gambia.”
The plaintiffs also argued that, “In spite of several appeals made to the Gambian government by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and other organizations, the government carried out the threat and secretly executed nine persons on death row in August 2012. The names of the nine persons executed by the government are:-Lamin B. Darboe; Alieu Bah; Lamin Jarju; Dawda Bojang; Abubacarr Yarbo; Abdoulie Sonko; Lamin F. Jammeh; Gibril Bah and Taraba Samba.
“The Gambian government has threatened to carry out the secret and illegal execution of the Nigerians and other remaining persons on death row by September 2012. But the Gambian parliament has not passed any memorandum endorsing the execution of the Nigerians, as required by Section 81 of the constitution of the Gambia,” the plaintiffs argued.
The plaintiffs also argued that, “The Gambian government’s action “violates the resolutions adopted by both the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN General Assembly requiring countries including the Gambia to adopt Moratorium on execution of the Death penalty. The resolution also asked AU member states including The Gambia that still retain the death penalty to fully comply with their obligation under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and guarantee to every person accused of crime for which capital punishment is applicable, fair trial standards; and to include in their periodic reports information on the steps they are taking to move toward the abolition of death penalty in their countries. The resolution is similar to the one adopted by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in 2007.”
“Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Defendant will continue to be in breach of the Gambian Constitution and Gambian international Human Rights Obligations and Commitment, as highlighted above. The government will proceed by September 2012 to secretly execute the Nigerians away from the public and from their families, thereby violating the requirements of transparency,” the plaintiffs further argued.
They also said that, “The right to fair trial is a fundamental safeguard to assure that individuals are not unjustly punished. It is indispensable for the protection of other human rights such as the rights to freedom from torture and the right to life. However, when people are subjected to unfair trials, justice cannot be served.”
“Specifically, the government has deprived the Nigerians their liberty and other fair trial rights and their right to life may be irreparably violated. They have also been denied their rights to be informed of their rights and an explanation of how to avail themselves of such rights. The authorities have failed to promptly inform them of their right to communicate with their embassy or consular post. Their conditions are characterized by depression, loss of sense of reality and physical and mental deterioration; massive deprivation of personal autonomy critical to psychological survival; and emotional emptiness,” it was also stated.
The plaintiffs therefore asked the court to declare the application of the death sentence in this instance illegal and unjust, and to set aside the sentence of death on these grounds.
The Plaintiffs are asking the Community Court of Justice for the following reliefs:
1. A DECLARATION that the consistent and continue denial of fair trial and rights to the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs on death row and in prisons under dehumanizing and harsh conditions in The Gambia violate Article 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 and 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
2. A DECLARATION that the public statement and the threat by the government of the Defendant to secretly execute the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs amounts to violations of plaintiffs’ right to life under Article 4 of the African Charter and the resolution moratorium on executions adopted recently by both the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN General Assembly.
3. A DECLARATION that the public threat by the Defendant to publicly execute the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs amounts to deliberate and willful disregard of the request by the African Commission to the effect that African countries , including The Gambia that still retain the Death penalty should fully comply with their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and guarantee to every person accused of crimes for which capital punishment is applicable, fair trial standards.
4. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Defendant and or its agents from carrying out the public threat to secretly execute the 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs and other persons on death row in The Gambia.
5. AN ORDER directing the Defendants to faithfully and fully implement its obligations under its own Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as resolutions on moratorium on executions adopted recently by both the African Commission on human and Peoples’ Rights and the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
SERAP Executive Director
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