Forty-eight human rights groups and press freedom organisations have petitioned the United Nations and the African Union over the continued detention of rights activist and convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services.
The groups described the arrest and detention of Sowore as a threat to press freedom and investigative journalism in Nigeria, while calling for an urgent intervention by the UN and the AU to secure his immediate release.
Sowore, who was the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress in the February 2019 election, was arrested on August 3 by the DSS “for threatening public safety, peaceful co-existence and social harmony in the country” by the protest he organised for Monday, August 5.
The Department had after the arrest called on Nigerians to disregard the “threat of revolution” issued by Sowore. It also secured an order of the Federal High Court in Abuja on August 8 to detain Sowore, who is the publisher of Sahara Reporter, for 45 days.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, ruling on an ex parte application by the DSS held that the detention order would be renewable after the expiration of first 45 days on September 21.
A statement by Idowu Olalere on Friday said Sowore’s detention constitutes a violation of his right not to be arbitrarily detained, right to fair trial, right to freedom of expression, right of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and his rights as a human rights defender.
The statement quoted the COO of Sahara Reporters, La Keisha Landrum Pierre, as saying, “The organisations, assisted by Ms Nani Jansen Reventlow, from the London-based internationally renowned law firm, Doughty Street Chambers, are calling upon the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the situation of human rights defenders, and African Commission Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and human rights defenders to intervene urgently to secure the immediate release of Mr Sowore and declare his arrest and continuing detention a gross violation of his human rights.”
The statement listed the rights groups to include Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Centre for Constitutional Rights, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Women Agenda, ARTICLE 19 Senegal/West Africa and Global Voice Sub-Saharan Africa.