Earlier this month, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published its decision declaring the detention of prominent human rights defender Omoyele Sowore arbitrary under international law. It has called on the Nigerian government to cease its unlawful prosecution of Sowore for his attempts to organize a peaceful protest in August of 2019, upholding the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Nigeria.
Nigerian authorities arrested Sowore on August 3, 2019, two days before his planned #RevolutionNow pro-democracy protest. The Nigerian authorities accused him of several baseless charges including cyberstalking for “insulting the president,” treason, and money laundering; of which, if convicted, he could face life in prison. Sowore’s arbitrary detention lasted 144 days and during that time he was subjected to several due process violations and continues to be the victim of malicious prosecution.
The Working Group found that Sowore's detention was arbitrary from the outset, pointing out that his crimes were “quite vaguely defined” and that “such vagueness seems to have been used to make an ordinary exercise of freedoms sound like a threat to national security and/or a terrorist act.” The Group also expressed that by cutting off access to his family and implementing severe and disproportionate bail conditions, the State had violated Sowore's due process rights and the right to a fair trial. It has called on the Nigerian government to conduct a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Sowore's detention, to release Sowore from his bail conditions, and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.
Read the full decision by the UN Working Group here.
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