Our Voices

The Ongoing Government Persecution of Omoyele Sowore

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is deeply concerned by the ongoing government persecution of our client, prominent human rights defender and journalist Omoyele Sowore, in Nigeria.

On December 31, 2020, Nigerian authorities arrested Sowore in Abuja along with four other activists during a peaceful, candlelight protest against the government where he was exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Authorities severely beat him, breaking his nose, and subsequently detained him in dangerous conditions. After 11 days in detention, he—and the other activists—were released on bail, with unduly burdensome restrictions on his freedom of movement. The government’s arbitrary arrest, detention, abuse, and ongoing prosecution of Sowore all violate Nigeria’s international human rights obligations. These and prior baseless charges levied against Sowore should be dropped and the government must grant immediate reparations.

This latest arrest occurred amid a broader government crackdown on independent civil society throughout the country, most notably against #EndSARS protesters since October 2020. It also takes place less than three months after the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published a decision declaring Sowore’s previous detention in 2019 in violation of international law. Nigerian authorities had arrested Sowore on August 3, 2019, two days before a planned #RevolutionNow pro-democracy protest. He was held in arbitrary detention for 144 days, where he was subject to several due process violations. He was finally granted bail after a prolonged court battle, but is unable to leave Abuja as a condition of his release. He now has two separate bail conditions requiring him to remain in the confines of Abuja, separated from his family.

Mr. Sowore is a U.S. permanent resident and resides in New Jersey with his family, who are all U.S. citizens. He is the founder of citizen journalist site Sahara Reporters dedicated to exposing corruption and government malfeasance throughout Africa.

In its October 2020 decision, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Nigerian government to cease its unlawful prosecution of Sowore for his attempts to organize a peaceful protest, upholding the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly as fundamental human rights in Nigeria.