Suspension Of Nigerian Top Judge Breaches Human Rights – UN

Suspension of Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari violates global human rights standards, UN expert says.

The
suspension of Nigeria’s most senior judge by President Muhammadu Buhari
broke international human rights standards on the independence of the
judiciary and the separation of powers, a United Nations expert has
said.

“International human rights standards provide that judges
may be dismissed only on serious grounds of misconduct or incompetence,”
said Diego Garcia-Sayan, the UN special rapporteur on the independence
of judges and lawyers, on Monday.

“Any decision to suspend or
remove a judge from office should be fair and should be taken by an
independent authority such as a judicial council or a court,” he said in
a statement.

Buhari, who was a military ruler in the 1980s
and was voted into office in 2015, is hoping to win a new term in a
presidential election scheduled to take place on Saturday.

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The chief justice could preside over any dispute over the election result.

Nigeria’s
judiciary has helped resolve electoral disputes in past votes, some of
which have been marred by violence and ballot rigging.

Garcia-Sayan,
who is mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate legal and
judicial independence, said dismissing judges without following legal
procedures or offering a chance to contest the decision was incompatible
with the independence of the judiciary.

Buhari suspended Chief
Justice Walter Onnoghen on January 25 following an order by a tribunal
on public officials’ conduct and replaced him with Ibrahim Tanko
Mohammad.

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But four courts superior to the tribunal had already
ordered a stay of proceedings and the tribunal had previously said it
lacked jurisdiction over cases involving judicial officers, Garcia-Sayan
said.

The UN statement said some of the judges and the
defence lawyers involved in Onnoghen’s case had been subject to serious
threats, pressures and interference.

‘Attempted coup’
The move prompted anger among the country’s civil society groups and opposition.

Last
month, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) decided to embark on a
two-day warning boycott of all courts in Nigeria over Onnoghen’s
suspension.

The NBA and local civil society associations held
protests in Abuja and southeast Enugu state to reject Onnoghen’s
suspension, calling it an “attempted coup against the Nigerian
judiciary”.

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Critics say the suspension is an effort by Buhari to
weaken Nigeria’s judiciary and pave the way for his election to a second
term in the February 16 vote.

Amid heightened tensions before the vote, observers warned against election-related violence.

Oil-rich
Nigeria struggles with multiple security challenges, including the
decade-old Boko Haram rebellion and Buhari’s 2015 election was a rare
peaceful transfer of power. Diplomats have urged the top candidates to
sign a peace pledge.

Source:- Aljazeera


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