Call for Action: Political Harrassment and Illegal Arrests in Nigeria

Agents of the State Security Service in Nigeria illegally detained three men and harrassed another in attempt to silence the call for former Liberian president Charles Taylor to face trial for war crimes, according to a statement issued on August 5, 2005, by The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

Mr. Taylor, currently hosted by the Nigerian authorities, was indicted on war crimes and crimes against humanity in March 2003 by the the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Chidi Odinkalu, the senior legal officer of the African office of the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), serves as amicus curiae to the court and has been given the task of determining the legality of Mr. Taylor's status of "asylum seeker" in Nigeria. Mr. Odinkalu was one of ten 2001-03 Brandeis International Fellows in Human Rights, Intervention, and International Law, and he is one of the collaboraters on the Center's fourth Brandeis Institute for International Judges, scheduled for January 2006 in Dakar, Senegal.

The Observatory, a joint program of the World Organization Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights, reported that on August 1, 2005, the SSS attempted to arrest Odinkalu without a warrant. The Observatory also stated that on August 2, 2005, the SSS did arrest Steve Omali and Michael Damisa, two printers who had produced a set of "Charles Taylor Wanted" posters for the Coalition Against Impunity, a collaboration of over 340 African and international nongovernmental organizations campaigning for Mr. Taylor's extradition. The SSS also arrested Matthew Damisa, Michael Damisa's brother, when he attempted to visit his brother at the prison the same day.

The three men were held in detention facilities in Abuja and denied legal counsel. The SSS agents also confiscated approximately 10,000 copies of the "Charles Taylor Wanted" posters. The men were released 48 hours later.

Mr. Odinkalu was not at the OSJI offices in Abuja when the SSS agents, led by a man named Victor Igwe, arrived to apprehend him, but the Observatory reported that the agents detained some members of his staff for several hours.

The Observatory is calling for all concerned citizens of the world to write to the Nigerian authorities, as well as the embassies of Nigeria in their respective countries, and ask that they:

  1. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Chidi Odinkalu, Steve Omali, Michael Damisa, Mathew Damisa, and all Nigerian human rights defenders;
  2. adopt immediate measures to put an end to all acts of harassment against Chidi Odinkalu and all human rights defenders;
  3. conform with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders1;
  4. ensure, in all circumstances, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Nigeria.

A list of Nigerian authorities and their addresses follows:

  • His Excellency Prof. George A. Obiozor
    Embassy of Nigeria
    3519 International Court, NW
    Washington, D.C. 20008
    Tel.: 202-986-8414/8415
    FAX: 202-362-6552

  • Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria
    The Presidency, Federal Secretariat Phase 2
    Shehu Shagari Way Abuja, Nigeria
    FAX : +234 9 234 1733

  • Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi, Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice
    Attorney-Generalís Chambers
    Federal Secretariat Complex
    10th floor
    Shehu Shagari Way, PMB 192
    Abuja, Nigeria
    FAX: +234 9 523 5208

  • Chief Broderick Bozimo, Minister of Police Affairs
    New Federal Secretariat Complex
    Shehu Shagari Way
    Abuja, Nigeria
    FAX : +234 9 523 2450

  • Ambassador Joseph U. Ayalogu
    Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United Nations in Geneva
    Rue Richard Wagner 1
    1211 Geneva 2
    FAX : +41 (0) 22 734 1053

To contact the Observatory, email:

Read Mr. Odinkalu's Aug. 3 remarks: "We Are Not Fugitives, Mr. Taylor Is"

Related reports:

1 From the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted Dec. 9, 1998, by the U.N. General Assembly: Article 9.3(a): Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to complain about the policies and actions of individual officials and governmental bodies with regard to violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, by petition or other appropriate means, to competent domestic judicial, administrative or legislative authorities or any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, which should render their decision on the complaint without undue delay.

Article 12.2: The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association withothers, against any violence, threats, retaliation, defacto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.

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