Letter to President Buhari urging release of Sheikh Zakzaky

Sheikh Zakzaky

Dear President

I am writing to once again draw your urgent attention to the ongoing case of Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife Mallimah Zeenah. They must be immediately released.


Further to our previous correspondence with yourself and other Nigerian officials we remain concerned that the couple continue to be unlawfully detained and are undergoing prosecution despite a court ruling ordering their release.

You are aware that in 2016 the federal high court ruled that their detention was unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered the Nigerian government to release them by January 16, 2017 and pay compensation.

I am dismayed that over three years later, the ruling has not been enforced and to make matters worse, the pair have been transferred from the custody of the DSS to Kaduna State Prison awaiting prosecution, despite the obvious risks that this raises for their deteriorating health.

It is a further travesty of justice that after detaining them without charge for a further two years after the federal court ruling, in 2018 the Nigerian authorities put the Zakzakys on trial on trumped up charges of abetting the commission of culpable homicide. There is no doubt in my mind that the charges are designed to deflect official responsibility for a planned and systematic politically motivated attack by soldiers which is now the subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court.

You will also be aware that in April 2019, a team of doctors were allowed, for the first time, to visit and undertake independent medical examinations of Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife. Their medical examinations showed extreme health concerns including dangerous levels of lead toxicity in his body. Family members who visited the couple in January this year have confirmed that their health continues to worsen.

As the head of a democratic nation I am sure that like myself, you believe in the rule of law and due process, and their equal and consistent application to all citizens of Nigeria. In the case of the Zakzakys the law is being abused to make an example out of them in what appears to be a wider campaign of persecution against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, which the Sheikh leads. We question how anyone, particularly the people of Nigeria, can be expected to have trust in their laws, institutions and processes when their government is allowed to so publicly violate fundamental human rights with impunity.

As a matter of urgency, we demand you bring an end to this travesty of justice perpetrated by the Nigerian government. Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and his wife Mallimah Zeenah must be released immediately. The mistreatment they and so many others have endured must be brought to an immediate end, in a manner that is consistent with applicable domestic and international human rights laws and standards.

There has been much bloodshed in the last four years by state institutions against the people. You have the possibility to bring about a cessation to this and begin the processes of justice and reconciliation, as well as proper political representation and governance. Failure to do so will only embolden other actors in Nigeria to create more turmoil.


Now is the time to stop this.

Yours faithfully

Massoud Shadjareh

Chair, IHRC