Press release: 17th October 2017
The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC) expresses deep concern at the ongoing mass trial of the Boko Haram suspects.
Over 1600 Boko Haram suspects are being detained in Niger state and SECRET trial is going on.
We commend the Attorney General of the Federation for taking the initiative to ensure that justice is served to the many victims of gross human rights abuses and severe crimes alleged to have been committed by the Boko Haram sect.
However, it is pertinent that due process is followed in the course of administering justice. Section 36 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides for fair trial for all Nigerian citizens. Public hearing is a yardstick for free and fair trial which forms a fundamental principle of Natural justice so it is quite disturbing that the trial of the Boko Haram suspect is being done privately.
NCICC maintains that accelerated/secret hearing in criminal matters of this nature is not advisable as it may present a glitch in the administration of justice. Suspects must be afforded the opportunity to be represented by a legal practitioner of their choice and lawyers must be given reasonable time to prepare their defense. It is important that all the antecedents of criminal trials be upheld as they are mere suspects and have to be proven guilty or otherwise.
NCICC call on Judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers to get involved in the prosecution of the suspects. Lawyers should be given adequate time and facilities to prepare for and ensure fair trial of the suspects.
NCICC Calls on the Attorney General of the Federation to ensure open trials and adequate protection of witnesses, we urge the judiciary to designate more judges and assign these cases to them. There is no way four judges can do justice to 1600 cases. It will take them a decade to do so.
Finally we appeal to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to provide more pro bono defence counsel because the Legal Aid Council is so thinly staffed and poorly funded to be able to give quality legal defence to 1600 defendants.
Chair, Steering Committee