ALERT: Nigeria – Release Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife and demand the Commonwealth’s intervention

Sheikh Zakzaky

IHRC’s Free Zakzaky campaign asks campaigners to send an email to the Commonwealth and request its intervention on denial of amnesty to Zakzaky amid the Covid-19 crisis. A model email and contact details of the Commonwealth are provided below. Please forward any responses you receive to IHRC at wajahat@ihrc.org

Background

Requested Action

Model email

Recipient Addresses

Background

The current Covid-19 pandemic crisis is still ongoing. On April 9, Buhari pardoned 2500 prisoners from Nigeria’s prisons. The pardon includes prisoners aged over 60 and those suffering from severe health conditions. However, this pardon did not include Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Muallima Zeenah, who are both over 60 and have severe health conditions.

The Sheikh and his wife have been kept in illegal detention for over four years. The Federal High Court of Nigeria has ordered Sheikh and his wife’s release, including compensation. However, the state authorities have decided to prosecute the couple and imprison them in the Kaduna State prison, where living conditions threaten their wellbeing, especially in the current pandemic climate.

IHRC urges the Nigerian authorities to release Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife Muallima Zeenah, the members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and other political and relevant prisoners. This is a policy that needs to be implemented quickly in Nigeria, given the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Requested Action

IHRC is calling upon campaigners to send an email to the Commonwealth and demand its intervention on denial of amnesty to Zakzakys amid the Covid-19 crisis. A model email and contact details of the Commonwealth are provided below. Please forward any responses you receive to IHRC at wajahat@ihrc.org

Model email
If you are emailing, please use the following in the subject line:
Outrage over denial of amnesty to Zakzakys amid Covid-19 crisis

Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC
Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough House
Pall Mall
London
SW1Y 5HX

Re: Denial of Amnesty for Sheikh Zakzaky Unacceptable

Dear Baroness Scotland QC,

I am writing to ask for your urgent intervention as Mallimah Zeenah was tested positive for Covid-19 in Kaduna state prison, where she was held along with her husband, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky.

Overcrowding in Nigeria’s jails, which currently operate at over 150 per cent of capacity, has meant that the virus has spread rapidly within the prison population. Last summer, the country released 7,813 prisoners from its Correctional Service centres around the country to relieve pressure and help fight against the pandemic. Many of those released were freed under presidential pardons issued by Buhari. However, the President failed to act on a request by IHRC for the clemency to be extended to Zakzaky.

This is all the more unacceptable given that the couple has never been convicted of any crimes and are being held unlawfully in defiance of a 2017 court order for their immediate release. They have been arrested since 2015. The time they have spent in custody reinforces the view that the Nigerian authorities are conducting a witch-hunt against the couple and abusing the judicial system, hoping that they will die quietly in custody. Given Zakzaky’s age and underlying medical conditions, the infection places him at heightened risk of severe illness or death.

I urge your office to play an active role. If anything happens to the Sheikh or his wife, the Nigerian Government will be held directly responsible. Due to the situation’s seriousness and urgency, I demand that they are immediately released from prison.

[Your name]

Commonwealth’s Contact Details:
Email: info@commonwealth.int
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7747 6500
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7930 0827

In the current circumstances, we do not advise sending letters by post.