Fighting Impunity: Human Rights Lawyer Goes to Court over Two-Year Detention of Journalist

Human rights lawyer and activist Femi Falana, has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja on behalf of Jones Abiri, a journalist who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSSS) since June 2016, without charge.

According to news reports, the suit, which was filed on July 3, 2018, is seeking among other reliefs, a declaration that Abiri’s detention in Abuja without access to his family members, friends and medical doctors “is illegal and unconstitutional.”

Falana is also asking for N200m (about $US554,700) in damages on behalf of Abiri for the illegal violation of his fundamental rights which are guaranteed by sections 34, 35 and 40 of the country’s Constitution as well as Articles 11 and 16 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

“There is no court order which authorised the detention of the applicant… and the agency has not charged the applicant to any court,” said Paul Ochayi, a clerk in Falana’s law firm, quoting from the affidavit.

On June 21, 2018, 21 press freedom and human rights organisations including the MFWA petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria to ensure the release of the journalist.

The MFWA welcomes the initiative by lawyer Falana to seek judicial redress for Abiri whose arbitrary detention is an abuse of his rights and an affront to the rule of law.

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