African Commission urges Gaddafi not to kill Nigerian convicts


on 20 September 2009

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has called on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi  (photo) to “suspend the carrying out of the death penalty” in the cases of around 20 Nigerian nationals sentenced to death in Libya.
The Commission, which is the African Union-derived body in charge of enforcing the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, responded to a complaint by the Nigerian NGO Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a provisional measure signed on September 9, 2009.
“I request Brother Leader to intervene in the matter with the view of preventing irreparable damage being caused to the victims while the African Commission inquires about the veracity of the Complaint. The appeal is particularly pertinent in respect of the imprisoned Nigerians, whom the Complainant alleges that they await the death penalty,” Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyanduga, the acting chairperson of the Commission, wrote to Gaddafi.
He added that the Commission would examine the matter in detail during its next session in November and pointed to its recent resolution calling for a moratorium on executions.

“Libya should show leadership and good example”

Femi Falana , the lawyer who filed the complaint on behalf of SERAP, welcomed the Commission’s provisional measure. “As the current Chair of the African Union, Libya should now show leadership and good example by taking steps to immediately and fully implement the decision requiring it to stop the execution of the Nigerians on death row, and to uphold the resolutions on moratorium on executions adopted by both the African Commission and the UN General Assembly,” he told African media.
In his complaint, Falana questioned the treatment of Nigerian nationals sentenced to death in Libya for crimes such as drug trafficking, murder and armed robbery. He especially doubts they had access to a fair trial as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and People’s rights.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, a member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, has also been intrumental  in bringing the fate of Nigerian death row inmates in Libya to attention. According to the House Committee on the Diaspora, which he chairs, a total of 200 Nigerians have been sentenced to death in Libya and 40 of them have been executed. Dabiri-Erewa complained that the Nigerian government did not do enough to help them.
Many migrants from Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan countries are on death row in North Africa and in Asia, most of them without assistance or attention from their home country.
Amid efforts to improve his international image, Gaddafi released a group of Bulgarian medics sentenced to death in Libya in the wake of a campaign led by European authorities and activists in 2007.

October 2nd update: in her submission to a side event to the UN General Assembly in New York on September 25, Catherine Dupe Atoki, a commissioner of the African Commission on Human and People’s rights, said that Libya had accepted the Commission’s request. “The Commission requested from the president of Libya a provisional measure to stay execution pending the determination of the communication,” her paper read. “Happily, the President obliged and for now there is a hold on the execution of the convicted persons.”

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