Sowore, others’ detention, shame for Nigeria — Amnesty International

• Declares detainees prisoners of conscience

AMNESTY International on Wednesday weighed in on the imbroglio trailing the continued detention by the Department of State Service (DSS) of three activists who are also media personalities: Omoyele Sowore, Olawale Bakare and Agba Jalingo.

The international organisation said the trio, held by the DSS despite an international outcry that the bail order from the judiciary is respected, would henceforth be considered as prisoners of conscience.

In the Wednesday statement, Seun Bakare, Programmes Manager, Amnesty International Nigeria, alleged that the Nigerian authorities at both the federal and state levels had repeatedly targeted human rights defenders, activists and journalists, by stifling dissenting voices and passing repressive legislation to restrict the civic space.

Sowore and Bakare have been in detention since August 2019, according to the statement, simply for expressing views critical of the government and despite meeting the stringent bail conditions, Nigeria’s secret police have allegedly refused to obey a court order for their release.

For Agba Jalingo, the organisation alleged that his bail applications had been repeatedly and unjustifiably rejected.

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“We consider Sowore, Jalingo and Bakare to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their human rights. The Nigerian authorities must drop all charges against them and release them immediately and unconditionally.

“Sowore, Jalingo and Bakare’s continued detention is a matter of shame for Nigeria. Their cases show just how far the authorities in Nigeria can go to silence their critics.

“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari needs to stop filing bogus and politically-motivated charges against critics and start listening to what they have to say,” Bakare was quoted as saying.

The press statement further asked the authorities to stop using the security agents and judiciary as a tool for persecuting people who voice dissenting opinions, challenge abuse and call for accountability.

Bakare further slammed the Nigerian government by saying “the flawed charges and sham trials of Sowore, Jalingo and Bakare expose the inadequacies and bizarre manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for the rule of law and human rights.”

Amnesty International Nigeria, therefore, called on the Nigerian authorities to review the Cyber Crimes Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act and bring them in conformity with international human rights standards.

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