Rights International v. Nigeria

Comm. No. 215/98 (1999).
Download Judgment: English

Rights International, a non-governmental organization based in the United States, claimed that Nigerian military soldiers arrested and tortured Mr. Charles Baridorn Wiwa at an unknown military detention camp in Gokana, Nigeria. The Complainant alleged that Mr. Wiwa’s detention lasted from January 2-9, 1996, and that during his detention, authorities horsewhipped him, subjected him to various forms of torture, and kept him in a cell with forty-five other detainees. The Complainant further alleged that acts of physical torture increased after authorities discovered Mr. Wiwa was a relative of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa. Such torture and treatment, according to the Claimant, violated Mr. Wiwa’s right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Additionally, the Complainant alleged that Mr. Wiwa’s illegal arrest and detention violated his right to personal liberty under Article 6 of the Charter and that Nigeria violated his Article 7(1)(c) right to legal representation when he was later charged with unlawful assembly under Section 70 of the Criminal Code Laws of Eastern Nigeria of 1963 without access to a lawyer.

Finally, the Complainant claimed that Nigeria’s treatment of Mr. Wiwa violated his rights to freedom of movement and residence under Article 12(1) and (2) of the Charter.

As Mr. Wiwa continued to experience threats to his life, he fled to Benin, where the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees declared him a refugee, and he resided in the United States at the time the complaint was filed. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights declared the complain admissible during is 24th Ordinary Session after determining Mr. Wiwa no effective remedy available in Nigeria following his flight for his life to Benin and the United States.

The Commission found that the Government of Nigeria had failed to provide any responses to the allegations of the Complainant, so the allegations were analyzed based on the facts of the complaint. Accordingly, the Government of Nigeria violated Mr. Wiwa’s rights to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 5 of the Charter, as Mr. Wiwa and medical evidence of his physical torture described the acts.

The Commission also concluded that Nigeria violated Mr. Wiwa’s right to personal liberty under Article 6, his Article 7(1)(c) right to legal representation, and his rights to freedom of movement and residence under Article 12(1) and (2).

"26. The Complainant alleges that while in detention, he was horsewhipped and subjected to various forms of torture. Article 5 of the Charter states: Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly…torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited."

"31. Despite invitations to the Government of Nigeria for its response to the allegations in this Communication, the Commission has received none. The Commission is, therefore, compelled to conclude the complaint on the facts in its possession, which are the allegations of the Complainant.

For the above reasons, the Commission [h]olds a violation of Articles 5, 6, 7(1) (c) and 12 (1) and (2) of the Charter."

View full summary and print   |   Download summary as PDF