Lagos-based human rights activist and member of the inner bar, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), on Saturday requested the Federal Government to investigate the abuse of human rights concerning the prolonged detention without trial of over 3,000 terror suspects in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno state.
Falana, in a release, asked the government panel investigating the case to arraign in court with immediacy all the suspects who have been indicted in terrorist activities, while the innocent ones should be released from custody without any further delay.
He suggested that the government panel should direct the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to liaise with the Chief of Army Staff on the arraignment and release, and also to investigate the circumstances of the death of many of the suspects in custody and recommend the payment of compensation to the affected families.
According to him, “Pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended any person arrested shall be arraigned in court within 24 hours if there is a court within a distance of 40 kilometres.
“If investigation is not concluded and the person cannot be brought to court within the stipulated period of 24 hours the detaining authorities are required to apply to a magistrate court for a remand order in line with the provisions of section 293 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“We have established that over 3,000 terror suspects including children have been subjected to detention for several months in Giwa Barracks, Maiduguri, Borno state without trial. In spite of the attention which the prolonged detention of the suspects has attracted the federal government has not taken any concrete action to restore the fundamental rights of the victims to personal liberty” he stated.
Falana, in his release also noted, “In fact, both the Amnesty International and the Panel set up by the Chief of Army Staff have confirmed that the detainees are held in dehumanising detention facilities. Consequently, several detainees have died in the overcrowded cells. Not surprisingly, the Boko Haram sect had attacked the detention centre for the purpose of releasing the suspects. In the process of repelling the insurgents some of the suspects were killed.
“In strict compliance with the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law the detaining authorities ought to have recognised the categories of the detainees and not lumped them together in custody. In other words, direct participants in hostilities; civilians who are indirect participants in hostilities; and civilians who are non participants in hostilities ought to have been kept in separate detention facilities.
“Worse still, children were kept together with adults in the same cells. Thus, by failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants involved in terrorist activities the principle of distinction which is a corner stone of International Humanitarian Law was violated by the federal government which is a party to the Geneva Convention.
“Since the suspects have not been charged with any criminal offence whatsoever many local and international human rights agencies have repeatedly called for their release from custody.
“However, the calls have fallen on deaf ears even though no explanation has been adduced for detaining the suspects without trial. To that extent, the detention of the suspects cannot be justified under section 35 of the Constitution and article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004” he added.
“In view of the foregoing, this Honourable Panel should investigate the circumstances of the death of many of the suspects in custody and recommend the payment of compensation to the affected families.
“Furthermore, the Panel should direct the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to liaise with the Chief of Army Staff with a view to arraigning in court all the suspects who have been indicted in terrorist activities while the innocent ones are released from custody without any further delay.
“Although the trial of the suspects has since commenced in Minna, Niger State let us join in the campaign to end official impunity in the country,” Falana concluded.