Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MEET THE 2014-2015 IHRC LEADERSHIP TEAM!!



(From left to right) Joseph "Joe" Federici (CC), Elizabeth "Liz" Turchi (CC),Tanya Sukhija (SC), Katie Shay (VC), Tammie Smith-Long (CC), Paul Johnson (SC), Catherine Vernon (VC), Cleveland Ferguson III (VC), N. Kay Bridger-Riley (SC), Eva Nudd (SC), Amol Mehra (SC), Ayesha Khan (SC), David Taylor (SC), Russell Kerr (VC), Nicholas Leddy (SC), Garry Farley (SC), John Mukum Mbaku (SC), Natalie Williams (VC), Gregory MacKenzie (VC), Gigi Nikpour (VC), Kimberly Goins (SC), Professor Vasco de Jesus Rodrigues (SC), Erin Louise Palmer (SC), Joseph Jacob (VC), and Stephanie Williams (VC). 


Key: 

CC = Co-Chair
VC = Vice Chair (Leaders)
SC = Steering Committee Member

Read full profile of IHRC Leadership and Steering Committees Members


Note: Some members opted not to publicly display their information. We nevertheless appreciate their contribution to this committee.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

EXTRAJUDICIAL, ARBITRARY, AND SUMMARY EXECUTIONS IN NIGERIA

By Osas Justy Erhabor, Esq.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), as amended, by S.33(1) provides that “[e]very persons has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a Court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”

This is the constitutional provision safeguarding the right to life of all persons in Nigeria and this Constitution is the fundamental law of the land and any other contrary provision in any other Law in Nigeria is void for such inconsistency with the Constitution.

There are exceptions to the above provision, whereby the law allows persons to use deadly force if such actions are reasonable, warranted by the circumstances, and carried out to prevent greater harm or harm to others. Specifically, the Constitution provides one may use lethal force:


(a) for the defence of any person from unlawful violence or for the defence of property;
(b) in other to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained; or
(c) for the purpose of suppressing a riot, insurrection or mutiny.

Despite the Constitution's clear mandates, there have been daily, gross violations of this Constitutional safeguard to the right to life by security operatives, particularly the Nigeria police.

The highest and may be, the most brazen form of extrajudicial killing with impunity was the killing of several persons in Awka, Anambra State of Eastern Nigeria in January 2013.

On 19th of January 2013, news broke out that more than 50 corpses were found floating in Ezu River in Awka, the capital city of Anambra State. The River is the boundary between Anambra and Enugu States of Nigeria. The bizarre pictures of floating corpses were shown in Television and published in various newspapers.

As the First Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, I was alarmed by the enormity of the incident. I was also then Chair of the NBA Human Rights Committee, which investigated incidents of extrajudicial killings, including arbitrary and summary executions in Nigeria.

The Committee’s findings were truly alarming. We interviewed locals who described seeing between 60-67 corpses floating in the river on that fateful morning. They described the grotesque sight in unprintable details.

The final result of our investigations indicted the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigerian Police at Awkuzu, few kilometres from Awka, where the unlawful execution of the alleged robbery suspects and their corpses were dumped in the river. Extrajudicial deaths are so common in this area that the locals considered the incident routine, the exception being the huge numbers of corpses involved. According to them, suspected criminals are routinely brought out of cells and executed, without trial or conviction by a Court of Law.

Even though our report was made public with copies sent to appropriate authority and governmental Agencies, no action has been taking against the Police to date. It is this impunity that is fuelling the circle of extra judicial killings in the Country.




There have also been reports of commercial vehicles drivers being shot and killed by officers at various highway security checkpoints.

On 29 April 2014, a hotelier was reportedly shot dead by a senior police officer, who is the head of a police division in the full glare of the public in Ilesa, Osun State, West of Nigeria. The matter has since been 'swept under the carpet' and the families of the deceased secretly pacified due to public outcry.

There have been other murders, including the Apo killing of a pregnant woman in Abuja by the operatives of State Security Service and the killing of a pregnant woman in Mpape, also in Abuja. The pregnant woman in Mpape was a passenger in a taxi cab that stopped to drop off another passenger in front of Bank. According to our reports, one of the policemen guarding the Bank opened fire at the cab killing the woman.

There is also the killing of four Ibo boys in Lagos by the police who effected their arrest on mere suspicion of being armed robbers. They were arrested at their respective homes, taken to the police station, and allegedly shot dead. The Human Rights Committee of the NBA, under my leadership, filed an action in Lagos High Court against the police and the Attorney General of the Federation. The action is still pending in Court.

The Legal Defence And Assistance Project (LEDAP) documents most of these killings. For example, in 2011 LEDAP reported that 491 incidents resulted in the deaths of 1,989 people. Of those deaths, 128  were classified as extrajudicial executions and 1,861 were classified as summary killings.

Perhaps the most worrisome of these extrajudicial killings, are those carried out by civilian mobs. It is a common occurrence today that if a petty thief or burglar is apprehended, a mob will immediately gather around him or her. The suspect is then beaten to death or given the tire treatment, whereby a rubber tire is put round his neck and set afire, burning the suspect alive). This exercise is locally referred to as 'jungle justice'. And it is perpetuated by a mutual mistrust between the police, judicial system, and civilian populace.

The extrajudicial killings carried out in the North-East of the Country are now being ignored or justified as a war zone matter with Boko Haram insurgents and the military locked in battle resulting in daily killings on both sides.

To restore confidence in the current system and reduce the likelihood of mob related extrajudicial killings, the Nigerian government must reign in its police and military forces; make security personnel accountable; and strengthen its criminal justice system so that it is an effective mechanism for dealing with person or group accused of committing extrajudicial, arbitrary, or summary executions.



Osas Justy Erhabor, Esq. works and resides in Nigeria. He is the Vice Chair of Special Projects for the ABA SIL International Human Rights Committee. 

Osas Justy Erhabor Esq,
Past First Vice President, Nigerian Bar Association,
Vice Chair, American Bar Association SIL IHRC
O J ERHABOR & COMPANY
Duraclean Building,
Email – justy.erhabor@yahoo.co.uk
Mobile- +2348034709191

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ISLP Report Finds Serious Violations of Fair Trial Rights for Cambodian Garment Workers


NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2014) – The International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP), with the expert support of Destination Justice (DJ), released a report today documenting the findings of trial monitors who observed the cases of 23 Cambodian nationals who were arrested, criminally charged, and convicted in connection with the garment worker protests of January 2014. The report expresses strong concern as to the fairness of the April-May 2014 trials, highlighting the lack of due process and failure of the government to provide an independent and impartial tribunal. It also notes serious irregularities with regard to pretrial detention, access to medical care, and several other basic principles of criminal justice and human rights.

“We are concerned that the defendants in this case were treated unfairly on account of their participation in the protests,” ISLP Executive Director Garth Meintjes said, noting that “the absence of a presumption of innocence, the failure to afford the defense the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and the judge’s decision to raise new, more serious charges at the end of the trial all point to a lack of respect for fundamental criminal justice norms.”

The defendants in the observed cases—21 of whom were dressed at trial in shirts that read “guilty person” in Khmer—were all arrested on January 2-3, 2014, when they gathered with thousands of other garment workers to protest the government’s refusal to grant their anticipated minimum wage increase. Twenty-one of the defendants were detained for several months, and some were denied much-needed medical attention, before eventually being granted a trial. At trial, monitors observed proceedings that were decidedly stacked against the defendants, as evidenced by the judge’s overt preferential treatment of the prosecution despite a lack of incriminating evidence. In the end, all 23 defendants were convicted, though their sentences were suspended under heavy pressure from international companies and rights groups.

“The treatment of the defendants both before and during trial calls into question Cambodia’s commitment to respecting fundamental human rights and fair trial principles, and signals the government’s reluctance to respond appropriately to serious concerns regarding labor conditions in the nation’s garment manufacturing industry,” said ISLP Human Rights Program Director Heather Eisenlord. “It is critical to publicize the injustice in the garment workers’ cases now, since as of August of this year the number of faintings and deaths among Cambodian garment workers had already dramatically surpassed any year on record.”

ISLP commends international actors who have taken independent steps to address these issues, including the eight major fashion retailers who just this week offered to pay more for garments produced in Cambodia in order to meet the protestors’ minimum wage demands. ISLP joins these actors in calling on the Cambodian government to address through law the legitimate concerns of the nation’s garment workers regarding their wages and working conditions, and further urges the government to tackle the clear deficiencies in its criminal justice system as highlighted in the trial monitoring report.

Full Trial Monitoring Report: ISLP Report Finds Serious Violations of Fair Trial Rights for Cambodian Garment Workers




Founded in 2000, the International Senior Lawyers Project provides the pro bono services of highly skilled and experienced lawyers to promote human rights, equitable and sustainable economic development, and the rule of law worldwide. ISLP helps build the legal capacity of governments, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions to advance the rights and well-being of their citizens. For more information, visit www.islp.org. Contact: Garth Meintjes, ISLP, 646-798-3288.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Passes Anti-Terrorism Resolution



Image Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP


In a vote presided over by President Obama, the U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved a historic resolution aimed at stopping the flow of foreign extremists to battlefields around the world.

It was rare session of the security council attended by heads of state – only the sixth of its kind in the organ’s 68-year history – all 15 member states voted for a US-backed resolution that seeks to step up the battle against “foreign terrorist fighters,” as President Obama described them.

The agreement from the world body’s highest panel was designed to tackle, Obama said, the new threat of the “unprecedented flow of fighters in recent years to conflict zones, most recently Syria and Iraq”.

He added: “These terrorists exacerbate conflicts; they pose an immediate threat to people in these regions; and as we’ve already seen in several cases, they may try to return to their home countries to carry out deadly attacks.”

Resolution 2178, which criminalizes traveling abroad to fight for extremist organizations as well as the recruiting for or funding of such groups, was adopted by all 15 members of the Security Council. According to Reuters: "It generally targets fighters traveling to conflicts anywhere in the world. It does not mandate military force to tackle the foreign fighter issue."

The U.N. resolution expresses concern that "foreign terrorist fighters increase the intensity, duration and intractability of conflicts, and also may pose a serious threat to their states of origin, the states they transit, and the states to which they travel."

President Obama, who was the first U.S. president to chair a Security Council meeting in 2009, thanked members for approving the historic measure, but warned that "a resolution alone will not be enough." The vote follows an address by the president in which he warned that inaction on extremism and other global threats could pull the world into "an undertow of instability."

"The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action," Obama said.

The president said 15,000 fighters from 80 nations were thought to have traveled to Syria since the conflict there began.

The resolution is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes it legally binding for the 193 U.N. member states and gives the Security Council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force.

Source: AP News










Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two Suicide Letters That Symbolize India's Misguided Shame | Nita Bhalla


Shame.

It’s a word I often hear when speaking to women in India, where a combination of patriarchy, misogyny and extreme conservatism makes women feel ashamed of the crimes being committed against them.

They are ashamed of being sexually harassed when walking home from school, ashamed for being molested by a colleague, ashamed after suffering a beating at the hands by their husbands, ashamed when their neighbor rapes them and ashamed when he shares mobile photographs of the crime with his friends.

On August 25, this misguided shame drove two Indian teenage girls, who were being repeatedly sexually harassed and stalked by a group of youths, to take their own lives.

Before drinking fruit juice laced with toxic chemicals at their school on the outskirts of Delhi, engineering students Madhu and Nikita both wrote telling suicide letters about how Indian society views women.

The letters, which were found by police near their desks, speak of fear, shame, and disrepute. They talk of neighborhood tongues wagging against them because the men were following and harassing them, wrote the Indian Express.

“Every day a new man would come and chase us. They would pass lewd remarks and offer us phone numbers. The people around us would stare as if we had done something wrong,” wrote 16-year-old Madhu.

“You know how bad our colony is, how people will say we encouraged these men to follow us even though we are innocent,” she added in her six-page letter written in Hindi.

Seventeen-year-old Nikita spoke of similar distress.

“I have not done anything wrong to bring shame on my family. I am ending my life because I cannot take this daily tension,” she wrote, urging police to crackdown on sexual harassment and warning of more suicides happening if action is not taken.


Excerpt, read The Suicide Letters That Symbolize India’s Misguided Shame -By Nita Bhalla | Trustlaw Women (TRF)