BREAKING: Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Calls for Commonwealth Sanction on Nigeria Over Twitter Ban.

Establish a mechanism to visit Nigeria to monitor and report on violations of Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has sent an “Urgent Appeal” to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC, over the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.

SERAP urged the Secretary-General to “apply the Commonwealth Charter to hold the Nigerian government to account over the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and the resulting repression of human rights particularly the rights to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom, as well as flagrant disregard for the rule of law.”

The organisation asked Ms. Scotland to “urgently consider recommending the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth to the Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Chair-in-office, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth to push the government to take concrete measures to respect and promote the Commonwealth’s values of human rights, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.”

In the appeal dated June 5, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director
Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “The Nigerian government has
repeatedly demonstrated that it is not committed to protecting human
rights.

The Commonwealth should take a clear stand to ensure
accountability of institutions, freedom of expression and access to
information in Nigeria.”

SERAP said, “Nigerians can only freely
participate in the democratic processes and shape the society in which
they live if these fundamental human rights are fully and effectively
respected, protected and promoted.

“The suspension has the
character of collective punishment and is antithetical to the Nigerian
Constitution and the country’s international obligations. Nigerian
authorities would seem to be suppressing people’s access to Twitter to
exploit the shutdown to cover up allegations of corruption, abuses, and
restrict freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.”

The
Urgent Appeal, copied to Mr António Guterres, Secretary-General of the
United Nations; and Ms Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights, read in part: “The Nigerian government has also called for the
prosecution of those who violate its order suspending Twitter operations
in Nigeria. This order for prosecution of Twitter users violates the
legal rule that there should be no punishment without law.

“Nigerian
government has a legal responsibility under the Nigerian Constitution
of 1999 [as amended] and international human rights treaties including
the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect, protect and promote
freedom of expression, access to information, and to ensure a safe and
enabling environment for people to enjoy these rights.

“The
suspension of Twitter in Nigeria demonstrates the authorities’
determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent by the Nigerian
people. There are well-founded fears that the human rights situation in
Nigeria will deteriorate even further if urgent action is not taken to
address it.

“According to our information, the Nigerian
government on Friday 4 June 2021 unlawfully ordered all internet service
providers to suspend Twitter in Nigeria. The suspension of Twitter
operations in Nigeria followed the deletion of President Muhammadu
Buhari’s tweets, which according to Twitter ‘violated the Twitter
Rules.’

“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is taking place
against the background of repression of the civic space and harassment
of media houses, and journalists who are targeted simply for performing
their professional duty.

“The suspension of Twitter has seriously
undermined transparency and accountability in government. The lack of
transparency undermines the rule of law and Nigerians’ ability to
participate in their own government.

“Lack of transparency and
accountability, and the absence of the rule of law in Nigeria have
contributed hugely to denying Nigerians their fundamental human rights.
People have been targeted simply for using Twitter and peacefully
exercising their fundamental human rights.”

SERAP urged the
Commonwealth to “publicly condemn the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria,
and put pressure on the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to
reverse the unlawful suspension;

“Urge the government of
President Muhammadu Buhari to respect freedom of expression, access to
information, and media freedom, as well as promote transparency and
accountability, and the rule of law;

“Urge the government of
President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the threat to prosecute Nigerians
simply for peacefully exercising their rights through Twitter

“Establish
a mechanism to visit Nigeria to monitor and report on violations of
Nigerians’ right to freedom of expression, access to information and
media freedom, absence of transparency and accountability, and
persistent disregard for the rule of law, and to get to the root of the
facts and circumstances of such abuses, with a view to ensuring full
accountability. Such mechanism would be the right response from the
Commonwealth to protect the integrity of the institutions and ensure
compliance by members to the Commonwealth values as enshrined in the
Commonwealth Charter and declarations.”

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