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Nigeria
26.04.00
Urgent Interventions

'Nigeria: Arrest/Legal proceedings

URGENT APPEAL- THE OBSERVATORY

NGA 001/0004/OBS 028.01
Arrest/Legal proceedings
Nigeria
26th April 2000

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT, has received new information and requests you to further intervene with the Nigerian authorities with utmost urgency in connection with the following situation.

New Information

The Observatory has received new information that on 18th April 2000 Ledum Mitee was charged with arson and attempted arson in a Magistrate’s Court in Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State and released on bail to await trial in May.

Arson and attempted arson are punishable by sentences of life imprisonment and 14 years imprisonment respectively in Nigeria.

Brief description of the facts

The Observatory had received information from the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, that armed policemen invaded K-Dere community in Gokana Local Government, killing five persons, arresting 8 and burning down houses, including that of Mr. Ledum Mitee, the leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP).

According to the information received, at 5am on 11th April 2000, a group of police, accompanied by individuals who had reportedly been acting as security for the local government chairman, arrived in the village of K-Dere, and began entering houses and arresting people, appearing to target men and youths of various ages. It was later reported that they were operating from a list of people believed to be opposed to the Kira-Bean road project.

From around 9am, the first houses were reported as being burnt by a combination of police acting directly or supervising in the company of youth moving with them, as well as individuals previously exiled from K-Dere community. A witness also noted that the Police brought an order that all local houses of community leaders should be burnt down. This was done by pouring fuel round the houses and then shooting at the fuel to set it alight. In all it is reported that 20 houses were burnt down.

Another witness reported that three vehicles full of mobile police entered the compound of Ledum Mitee. They proceeded to set fire to the compound, returning and hour later to set the house alight a second time.

The Observatory is gravely concerned for the security and freedom of Ledum Mitee and all other persons engaged in the defence of the rights of the Ogoni people.

Action requested:

Please write to the Nigeria authorities urging them to:

i. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Ledum Mitee;
ii. drop all charges against Ledum Mitee or, if valid charges indeed exist, ensure that he is brought before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times;
iii. carry out a full and impartial investigation into these events in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
iv. abide by the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9th 1998 ("Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ") and more particularly article 1 which provides that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels" and Article 5 which provides that «For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully; (b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups..»
v. more generally to abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the regional and international covenants ratified by Nigeria

Addresses :

Olusegun Obasango; President of the republic;Tel: 234 9 523 20 28; Fax:
234 9 523 21 36 (press office)

Sule Lamido; Minister of Foreign Affairs; Fax: 234 9 523 02 08

Godwin Agabi; Minister of Justice; Fax: 234 9 523 52 08

Geneva - Paris, 26th April 2000

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a joint FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the Emergency line : Fax : 33 (0) 1 55 80 83 92
Tel FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39
E.Mail : observatoire@iprolink.ch
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