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Urgent Interventions

Nigeria: Harassment of Mr. Chidi Odinkalu


NGA 001 / 0805 / OBS 065


August 5, 2005

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Nigeria.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) of acts of harassment against Mr. Chidi Odinkalu, Africa Programme Director of the NGO Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) and leader of the campaign for Charles Taylor’s indictment before the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

According to the information received, on August 2, 2005, around 10 a.m., agents of the State Security Service (SSS), led by Mr. Igwe, besieged OSJI offices in Abuja, searching for Mr. Chidi Odinkalu. The SSS officers said that they had instructions from the Director General of SSS to arrest Mr. Odinkalu, despite to the fact that they had no arrest warrant. Mr. Odinkalu was then summoned in abstentia for questioning at the SSS headquarters. While the SSS agents were ransacking Mr. Odinkalu’s office, the activist was attending the public presentation of the CLO 2004 Annual Report, of which he was the reviewer. As they could not find Mr. Odinkalu, the SSS officers took some of his staff hostage and detained them till the afternoon of the same day.

The Observatory recalls that these acts of harassment took place in the context of the repression led by the Nigerian authorities to silence the campaign of the Coalition Against Impunity, consisting of up to 300 African and international civil society groups, including OSJI, for Mr. Charles Taylor to face justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Mr Taylor is currently hosted by the Nigerian authorities despite his indictment and the arrest warrant issued by the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. It is important to note that Mr. Chidi Odinkalu, as OSJI legal adviser, serves as a amicus curiae in order to determine the legality of Mr. Taylor’s status of asylum seeker in Nigeria.

Moreover, on August 1, 2005, Mr. Steve Omali and Mr. Michael Damisa, both printers making posters for the Coalition Against Impunity entitled “Charles Taylor Wanted”, were arrested by SSS officers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. They were held in the SSS detention facilities in Abuja, along with Mr. Mathew Damisa, Mr. Michael Damisa’s brother, who was arrested when he visited his detained brother on the same day. They were denied the right to have any visit, either from the family or their lawyer, during their detention. The SSS agents also confiscated about 10,000 copies of the posters printed for the Coalition. The three men were released 48 hours later.

The Observatory expresses its concerns about these acts of harassment that contravene the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular its article 9.3(a), which provides that everyone has the right “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”, and its article 12(2), which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto 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”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Nigerian authorities and ask them to:
i. guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Chidi Odinkalu, Mr. Steve Omali, Mr. Michael Damisa, Mr. Mathew Damisa, and of all Nigerian human rights defenders;

ii. adopt immediate measures to put an end to all acts of harassment against Mr. Chidi Odinkalu and all human rights defenders;

iii. conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular its article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and the above-mentioned articles 9.3(a) and 12(2);

iv. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Nigeria.


  • 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-General’s 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, Email :

Please also write to the embassies of Nigeria in your respective country.

Paris – Geneva, August 5, 2005

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a 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.
The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 01 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 4122 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
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