As the world marks the 13th World Day against the use of the Death Penalty with focus on raising awareness around the application of the death penalty for drug-related offences, LEDAP reminds Nigerian government and Nigerian foreign missions of their legal obligations under the Vienna Convention on the Consular Rights Services, to provide consular support to its citizens that are in conflict with the law abroad.
Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits the imposition of the death penalty for any but the ‘most serious’ crimes. The Human Rights Committee, has repeatedly made it clear that drug offences do not meet this threshold, and that only crimes involving intentional killing can be ‘most serious’.
LEDAP is concerned that many Nigerians are trapped in the deceptive organized drug world as innocent traffickers, and in South East Asia and China, they are faced with the gallows. Data collected independently by LEDAP showed that nearly 120 Nigerians are facing the death penalty in Chinese prisons, and over 170 in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, etc and 5 in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia. 33 countries and territories retain the death penalty for drug crimes and it is estimated conservatively that over 16,500 Nigerians are in prisons abroad and nearly 350 of them are facing the death penalty.
LEDAP has over the years battled to reduce offenses punishable with death in Nigeria and to move Nigeria towards gradually abolition of the death penalty in the midst of context of risks of unfair trials and mistaken convictions. In the last 5 years, LEDAP has litigated over 35 death penalty cases on appeal, out of which in nearly half of them were the prisoners exonerated, showing a shocking high level of wrongful convictions. It is at the moment producing a documentary on the innocents on death row to be titled “The Exonerated”.
According to LEDAP’s National Coordinator, Barrister Chinonye Obiagwu “There is an urgent need for the government to through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs track and support its indigent citizens facing the death penalty abroad, and their families… This is no longer an emotional issue but an issue of balancing the prospects of harsh punishment that does not even deter crimes, with the risk of wrongly executing innocent people. We will continue to insist with other abolitionist campaigners that the death penalty is itself inhuman and degrading, and to apply it in situation where there is high risk of mistaken conviction is utterly unacceptable in the 21st century”.
Obiagwu further berates “that most of the Nigerians convicted abroad did not receive fair trials because most of them did not have lawyers to defend them, the trials are held in languages they do not understand, in many cases no interpreters are provided and more importantly, consular support services are lacking”.
LEDAP today calls on the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that consular services are provided to every Nigerian facing a criminal charge abroad. They should make exertion to recruit and train legal attachés in all its missions, especially in South-East Asia, to ensure that no Nigeria is on death row aboard.
LEDAP further reminds all the 58 retentionist nations including Nigeria of the dangers of continued use of the death penalty, LEDAP and hundreds of exonerated ex-death row prisoners in Nigeria and aboard call on Nigeria’s government to make concerted effort to abolish the death penalty in Nigeria and be responsive to the plight of its citizen’s aboard.
When the government kills, it motivates citizens to belittle life and to wrongly pursue revenge as justice. The death penalty doesn’t stop drug crimes!!!