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Back Activities Alert Archive URGENT ALERT UPDATE: NIGERIA – 113 Sokoto detainees each sentenced 11 years

URGENT ALERT UPDATE: NIGERIA – 113 Sokoto detainees each sentenced 11 years

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The 113 remaining detained members of the Shia group in Sokoto have each been sentenced 11 years in prison after 10 months of detention awaiting their trial.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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4 June 2008

URGENT ALERT UPDATE: NIGERIA – 113 Sokoto detainees each sentenced to 11 years

Contents
1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letters
5. Addresses for sample letters


1. Summary

On 27 May 2008, Judge Mustapha Balle awarded each of the 113 detained members of the 'Islamic Movement' in Sokoto 11 years in prison. The long awaited judgment came in a 'trial' with neither the lawyers of the accused present, nor any of the witnesses present, the testimony of whom served as incriminating evidence in the case. Furthermore and contrary to Nigeria's constitutional stipulations and formal criminal procedures, only 47 of the men stood to represent themselves and the remainder of the total 133 detainees; as no formal charges had ever been levelled against them, none were able to provide their plea. In addition, the sentencing on 27 May broke a formal agreement reached during a court sitting on 8 May earlier that month between the Upper Shariah Court in Sokoto and the detainees' legal representation.


2. Background

After the killing of Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya on 18 July 2007, Shia members of the group known as the 'Islamic Movement' and 'The Muslim Brothers' were collectively blamed for the killing by Sokoto's local authorities. Subsequently, the police arrested and detained more than 100 of the group's members. Since the assassination, approximately 68 homes have been destroyed and more than 50 women and children have gone missing. Further, some 7 members have been brutally murdered. All this was reportedly carried out by a combined force of federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

It is reportedly believed by the Shia community of Sokoto that the local government had used the assassination of the Sunni cleric as a ploy to indiscriminately attack them. In weeks following the initial killing, the state government destroyed the group's centre, clinic and school. On 3 October 2007, the home of Kasimu Omar, one of the Shia leaders detained, was demolished alongside three other homes. Interestingly, the official reason was the government's plan to build a police station and clinic in its place.

Although the state commissioner of the Nigerian police declared on the BBC Hausa Service that there was no evidence linking members of the Sokoto's Shia community to the cleric's assassination, the state government continued to collectively punish members of the group.

127 members of the Shia group had been detained from 19 July 2007, following Umar Danmaishiyya's death, while none have been charged with killing or conspiracy to kill the cleric, until 16 of them were subsequently released on bail by the Federal High Court in Sokoto on 6 March 2008.

Manfred Nowak, the UN anti-torture investigator, has described Nigerian prisons as being plagued with widespread and systematic torture. He further mentioned that prisoners sleep in unsanitary and overcrowded cells on concrete floors and are not provided with adequate food or water.

For detailed background information, please refer below to our previous alerts about the crisis in Sokoto:
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=2977
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=2892
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=3229


3. Action required

a) Write to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in your country, urging him/her to call for the release of the 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto, along with an investigation into the events leading to their sentencing. Campaigners in the UK, US, Canada and Australia can use the addresses provided at the bottom.

b) Write to the Nigerian Ambassador in your country, urging him/her to call for the release of the 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto, along with an investigation into the events leading to their sentencing. Campaigners in the UK, US, Canada and Australia can use the addresses provided at the bottom.

c) Write to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations urging him to call for the release of the 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto, along with an investigation into the events leading to their sentencing.


4. Sample letters
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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.

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a) Sample letter to Minister for Foreign Affairs in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH, UK

Dear Mr. Miliband,

Re: Sentencing of 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto, Nigeria

I am very concerned about the recent sentencing of 113 remaining members of the minority Shia group in Sokoto, with no lawyers present, after 10 months of detention awaiting their trial.

Last Tuesday, on 27 May 2008, the Upper Shariah Court in Sokoto sentenced each of the 113 detained members of the 'Islamic Movement' in Sokoto 11 years in prison. Very disappointingly, the trial and sentencing commenced without the legal representation of the accused present at the trial, as were none of the witnesses whose testimonies served as evidence. Likewise, as none of the accused ever had any formal charges levelled against them, they never had the opportunity to offer a plea. Additionally, only 47 men stood to represent themselves and the remaining of the 113 detainees.

On 18 July 2007, after the killing of Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya, Shia members of the group known as the 'Islamic Movement' and 'The Muslim Brothers' were collectively blamed for the killing by Sokoto's local authorities. Thereafter, the police arrested and detained more than 100 of the group's members. Since the cleric's murder, roughly 68 homes were destroyed and more than 50 women and children went missing. Also, 7 members were brutally murdered. Reportedly, this was all carried out by federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

I am also very concerned about the prison conditions of the detainees given that the UN anti-torture investigator has recently reported on Nigeria's prisons being plagued with the use of widespread and systematic torture, and that prisoners are not provided with adequate food or water. He also described the cells as being overcrowded and unsanitary, with prisoners having to sleep on bare concrete floors.

I urge you to call on your Nigerian counterparts to grant an immediate and unconditional release of the 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial. Furthermore, please urge them to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the events surrounding the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya and into all subsequent acts of violence including the disappearance and deaths of several Shias in Sokoto and to fully compensate those whose homes were destroyed. Likewise, until the detainees are released, please ensure that they are treated in accordance to international human rights standards.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon regarding this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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b) Sample letter to Nigerian Ambassador in your country (UK campaigners can use the address supplied)


[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

HE Mr D C B Nwanna
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London, WC2N 5BX, UK

Your Excellency,

Re: Sentencing of 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto, Nigeria

I am very concerned about the recent sentencing of 113 remaining members of the Shia group in Sokoto, with no lawyers present, after 10 months of detention awaiting their trial.

Last Tuesday, on 27 May 2008, the Upper Shariah Court in Sokoto sentenced each of the 113 detained members of the 'Islamic Movement' in Sokoto 11 years in prison. Very disappointingly, the trial and sentencing commenced without the legal representation of the accused present at the trial, as were none of the witnesses whose testimonies served as evidence. Likewise, as none of the accused ever had any formal charges are levelled against them, they never had the opportunity to offer a plea. Additionally, only 47 men stood to represent themselves and the remaining of the 113 detainees.

On 18 July 2007, after the killing of Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya, Shia members of the group known as the 'Islamic Movement' and 'The Muslim Brothers' were collectively blamed for the killing by Sokoto's local authorities. Thereafter, the police arrested and detained more than 100 of the group's members. Since the cleric's murder, roughly 68 homes were destroyed and more than 50 women and children went missing. Also, 7 members were brutally murdered. Reportedly, this was all carried out by federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

I am also very concerned about the prison conditions of the detainees given that the UN anti-torture investigator has recently reported on Nigeria's prisons being plagued with the use of widespread and systematic torture, and that prisoners are not provided with adequate food or water. He also described the cells as being overcrowded and unsanitary, with prisoners having to sleep on bare concrete floors.

I urge you to call for an immediate and unconditional release of the 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial. Furthermore, please see to it that an independent and impartial investigation is conducted, looking into the events surrounding the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya and into all subsequent acts of violence including the disappearance and deaths of several Shias in Sokoto and to fully compensate those whose homes were destroyed. Likewise, until the detainees are released, please ensure that they are treated in accordance to international human rights standards.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon regarding this urgent matter.


Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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c) Sample letter to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations


[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough House, Pall Mall
London, SW1Y 5HX, UK

Dear Mr Sharma,

Re: Sentencing of 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto, Nigeria

I am very concerned about the recent sentencing of 113 remaining members of the minority Shia group in Sokoto, with no lawyers present, after 10 months of detention awaiting their trial.

Last Tuesday, on 27 May 2008, the Upper Shariah Court in Sokoto sentenced each of the 113 detained members of the 'Islamic Movement' in Sokoto 11 years in prison. Very disappointingly, the trial and sentencing commenced without the legal representation of the accused present at the trial, as were none of the witnesses whose testimonies served as evidence. Likewise, as none of the accused ever had any formal charges are levelled against them, they never had the opportunity to offer a plea. Additionally, only 47 men stood to represent themselves and the remaining of the 113 detainees.

On 18 July 2007, after the killing of Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya, Shia members of the group known as the 'Islamic Movement' and 'The Muslim Brothers' were collectively blamed for the killing by Sokoto's local authorities. Thereafter, the police arrested and detained more than 100 of the group's members. Since the cleric's murder, roughly 68 homes were destroyed and more than 50 women and children went missing. Also, 7 members were brutally murdered. Reportedly, this was all carried out by federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

I am also very concerned about the prison conditions of the detainees given that the UN anti-torture investigator has recently reported on Nigeria's prisons being plagued with the use of widespread and systematic torture, and that prisoners are not provided with adequate food or water. He also described the cells as being overcrowded and unsanitary, with prisoners having to sleep on bare concrete floors.

I urge you to call on the Nigerian government to grant an immediate and unconditional release of the 113 Shia detainees in Sokoto based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial. Furthermore, please urge them to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the events surrounding the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya and into all subsequent acts of violence including the disappearance and deaths of several Shias in Sokoto and to fully compensate those whose homes were destroyed. Likewise, until the detainees are released, please ensure that they are treated in accordance to international human rights standards.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon regarding this urgent matter.


Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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5. Addresses for sample letters

a) Addresses for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

British campaigners can write to:

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH, UK

Fax: +44 20 7839 2417
Email: private.office@fco.gov.uk


American campaigners can write to:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520, USA


Canadian campaigners can write to:

Minister of Foreign Affairs - Maxime Bernier Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0G2, Canada


Australian campaigners can write to:

Minister for Foreign Affairs - The Hon Stephen Smith MP
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600, Australia

Fax: +61 (02) 6273 4112
Email: Stephen.Smith.MP@aph.gov.au


b) Addresses for the Nigerian Ambassadors in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

British campaigners can write to:

HE Mr D C B Nwanna
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London, WC2N 5BX, UK

Fax: (020) 7839 8746
Email: information@nigeriahc.org.uk


American campaigners can write to:

HE Brig. Gen. Oluwole Rotimi
Chief of Mission
Embassy of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008, USA

Fax: (202) 362-6541
Email: http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/contact.shtml


Canadian campaigners can write to:

HE Mrs. Ifeoma Jacinte AKABOGU-CHINWUBA (M)
Minister & Acting High Commissioner
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
295 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1R9, Canada

Fax: (613) 236-0529
Email: chancery@nigeriahcottawa.com


Australian campaigners can write to:

HE Prof. S Olu AGBI
High Commissioner for Nigeria
PO Box 241
Civic Square ACT 2608, Australia

Fax: (02) 6282 8471
Email : chancery@nigeria-can.org.au


c) Address for the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations

Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough House, Pall Mall
London, SW1Y 5HX, UK

Fax: +44 (0)20 7930 0827


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