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119 Nigerians on death row in Malaysia may escape death if…

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The 119 Nigerians on death row in Malaysia may be saved from the executioner if the country’s legislature passed a bill to abolish the death penalty as being proposed by the country’s law minister Liew Vui Keong.

The minister plans to table the bill in the March 2020 sitting of Dewan Rakyat, Malaysia’s Lower House of Parliament.

According to Amnesty’s latest report, Fatally Flawed: Why Malaysia must abolish the Death Penalty, 1,281 people are on death row as of February 2019.

Foreigners make up a significant 44 percent, 568 people, with Nigerians accounting for 119. They were sentenced to death for drug trafficking.

“Nationals from Nigeria made up 21 per cent of this group, with those from Indonesia (16%), Iran (15%), India (10%), Philippines (8%) and Thailand (6%) following suit”, Amnesty said.

“A significant 73 per cent of all those under sentence of death have been convicted of drug trafficking under Section 39(b) of the Dangerous of Drugs Act, 1952 — an extremely high figure for an offence that does not even meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ under international law and standards and for which the death penalty must not be imposed,” AI said in the report.

The Nigerians have not been executed because of a moratorium on executions in place since October 2018 as the government mulls law reform.

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A special task force led by immediate past chief justice Richard Malanjum has also been set up to study alternative penalties for laws carrying mandatory capital punishment.

Amnesty report points at various flaws in the Malaysian legal system, including denial of complete legal aid to foreigners.

Amnesty also said that insufficient funding of legal aid also hinders Malaysians from accessing proper representation, especially those who live in rural areas and who are not able to afford a lawyer.

“It is further concerning that because of how legal aid is structured in the different schemes that provide no free legal representatives until the trial is due to start, many defendants are left awaiting trial without any legal assistance for significant periods that have extended from months to, in most cases, two to five years,” the report read.

For foreign nationals, the report noted delays of more than 24 hours to several days before their respective embassies were informed of their arrests. This is despite international law which states that prompt communication is necessary.

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Amnesty, which campaigns to end to capital punishment worldwide, called for competent legal representation be made available to all defendants.

It also called upon the police to inform all detainees of their right to legal aid.

‘Secretive’ pardons, executions

Aside from the pre and post-trial stages, gaps in legal aid also affected the ability of inmates to acquire assistance when filing their pardon petitions, noted Amnesty.

When it was available, the report cited a lawyer’s testimony about how prison officials pre-selected inmates who would be able to receive legal aid, all of whom were Malaysians.

“The decision on who gets that support is not transparent and creates an additional degree of arbitrariness and discrimination in the death penalty system,” it said.

The NGO further urged the government to solve the delays and lack of transparency in clemency proceedings.

Pardons can only be granted by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong and the state rulers after consulting the Pardons Board. However, clear procedures for them are not laid out in Malaysian law except for some guidelines in the Prison Regulations 2000.

In practice, the report noted that inmates are often informed of their right to clemency but not the criteria for pardon consideration.

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Inmates and their families are often left without any news from the authorities for a long period after submitting their petition.

The report also noted instances of delays by prison authorities in communicating the result of a pardon petition to an inmate’s family.

In the case of rejected clemency petitions, Amnesty noted that families were not informed of the date and time of impending executions except that they would happen “soon”.

“Some of the letters handed over to the families were dated two weeks earlier, suggesting that the prison authorities had held on to this information until only days before the scheduled date of the hangings,” it said.

Amnesty urged Pardon Boards to disclose all relevant information to inmates to allow them to prepare adequately for the pardon petitions.

It also wanted the boards to promptly update inmates, their families and their lawyers on the progress of their applications.

Following objections to abolishing the death penalty in total, the Pakatan Harapan government is now looking at replacing the mandatory death penalty for 11 serious criminal offences to allow for judicial discretion.

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Expect delays, long hours of checks, re-checks, FAAN warns ahead of airports reopening

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Coronavirus: FAAN postpones aviation conference

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has said it has put in place arrangements on passenger facilitation, ahead of the resumption of flights.

The General Manager Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, stated this while speaking at an aviation webinar organised by Women in Aviation (WIA) Nigeria with the theme: “Aviation: The New Norm in the post-COVID-19.”

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Yakubu warned passengers to expect delays and long hours of checks and re-checks from when they arrive at the airport until they depart.

She said noted escorts of VIPs would no longer be allowed to follow their principals into the terminal.

“We are going to expect flight delays, flights will experience delays from checks and re-checks. If you are travelling, I will expect a potential traveller to leave home hours before his flight. Why do I say this?

“Because there is going to be a lot of checks in the front of the terminal we have been told that some may activities and procedures will take place in front of the terminal. So air travellers are expected to leave home very early so that they can get to the airport on time,” Yakubu said.

 

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COVID-19: Bauchi records two new deaths, discharges 37

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The Bauchi State Ministry of Health has announced the deaths of two people due to coronavirus [COVID-19]-related complications.

The ministry also said 37 people were discharged after treatment for the disease.

WuzupNigeria reports that the development was revealed in a statement on Tuesday night.

This brings the total number of deaths in Bauchi State to seven since March 24th when the first index case was recorded in the state.

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Meanwhile, 37 more patients who have recovered after testing negative twice for the coronavirus have been discharged.

So far, the total number of discharged patients in the state has risen to 201.

The total number of confirmed cases in the state so far stands at 232.

The statement reads:

“37 discharges have been made with zero cases for two consecutive days in the state but unfortunately we recorded 2 deaths.

“At the moment, only 24 patients are on the hospital’s admission as of today 26th May 2020. The only patient is in severe condition has recovered and is getting better, where the entire case fatality rate stood at 3.0%.”

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Military condoning torture, unlawful detention, sexual abuse of children escaping Boko Haram in Northeast 

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Nigeria must urgently address its failure to protect and provide education to an entire generation of children in the Northeast, a region devastated by years of Boko Haram atrocities and gross violations by the military, Amnesty International warned today in a chilling new report.

The 91-page report, ‘We dried our tears’: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict, examines how the military’s widespread unlawful detention and torture have compounded the suffering of children from Borno and Adamawa states who faced war crimes and crimes against humanity at the hands of Boko Haram.

It also reveals how international donors including the UK have bankrolled a flawed programme that claims to reintegrate former alleged fighters, but which overwhelmingly amounts to unlawful detention of children and adults.

Joanne Mariner, Acting Director of Crisis Response at Amnesty International, said:

“The past decade of bitter conflict between Nigeria’s military and Boko Haram has been an assault on childhood itself in Northeast Nigeria. The Nigerian authorities risk creating a lost generation unless they urgently address how the war has targeted and traumatised thousands of children.

“Boko Haram has repeatedly attacked schools and abducted large numbers of children as soldiers or ‘wives’, among other atrocities.

“The Nigerian military’s treatment of those who escape such brutality has also been appalling. From mass, unlawful detention in inhumane conditions, to meting out beatings and torture and allowing sexual abuse by adult inmates – it defies belief that children anywhere would be so grievously harmed by the very authorities charged with their protection.”

Between November 2019 and April 2020, Amnesty interviewed more than 230 people affected by the conflict, including 119 who were children when they suffered serious crimes at the hands of Boko Haram, the Nigerian military, or both. This included 48 children held in military detention for months or years, as well as 22 adults who had been detained with children.

Boko Haram’s brutality

Children have been among those most impacted by Boko Haram’s string of atrocities carried out over large swathes of Northeast Nigeria for nearly a decade. The armed group’s classic tactics have included attacks on schools, widespread abductions, recruitment and use of child soldiers, and forced marriage of girls and young women, which all constitute crimes under international law.

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The scale of abductions has often been underestimated and appears to run into the thousands. Boko Haram continues to force parents to hand over boys and girls, under threat of death. It continues to forcibly “marry” girls and young women. And it continues to murder people who try to escape.

Children in areas under Boko Haram control have been subjected to torture, including floggings and other beatings, as well as forced to watch public executions and other brutal punishments.

A 17-year-old girl who escaped Boko Haram after being abducted and held in captivity for four years described life in the Sambisa forest: “[My] wicked ‘husband’ always beat me… My daily activities included praying, cooking if there was food, [and] going for Quranic lessons. No movement was allowed, and no visiting friends. It was a terrible experience, and I witnessed different punishments, from shooting to stoning to lashing.”

She, and most other former child “wives” interviewed — including some who returned with children born during captivity — had received little or no assistance in returning to school, starting livelihoods, or accessing psychosocial support.

Thousands, including children, held in military detention

Children who escape Boko Haram territory face a raft of violations by the Nigerian authorities, including crimes under international law. At best, they end up displaced, struggling for survival and with little or no access to education. At worst, they are arbitrarily detained for years in military barracks, in conditions amounting to torture or other ill-treatment.

The UN told Amnesty it has verified the release of 2,879 children from military detention since 2015, although it previously cited a higher figure of children detained between 2013 and 2019. These statistics are likely to be a vast underestimate, and the UN has said its access to military detention is restricted so it cannot provide the actual number of children detained in the context of the conflict.

Most of these detentions are unlawful; children are never charged or prosecuted for any crime and are denied the rights to access a lawyer, appear before a judge, or communicate with their families. The widespread unlawful detentions may amount to a crime against humanity.

Almost everyone fleeing Boko Haram territory, including children, is “screened” by the military and Civilian Joint Task Force – a process that, for many, involves torture until the person “confesses” to affiliation with Boko Haram. Alleged Boko Haram members and supporters are transferred and held – often for months or years – in squalid conditions in detention centres including Giwa Barracks in Maiduguri and the Kainji military base in Niger State.

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Conditions so severe they amount to torture

Every former detainee interviewed offered consistent descriptions of the conditions: extreme overcrowding; a lack of ventilation amid stifling heat; parasites everywhere; and urine and faeces on the floor, because of the lack of toilets. Although there have been some improvements in recent years, many former detainees, including children, also faced grossly inadequate access to water, food, and health care.

Tens of thousands of detainees have been held in these conditions, which are so extreme that they constitute the war crime of torture. Many children continue to be held in such conditions, even after mass releases in late 2019 and early 2020. Amnesty estimates that at least 10,000 people, including many children, have died in detention during the conflict.

A 14-year-old boy whom Boko Haram abducted as a young child before he fled and was placed in detention by the Nigerian military, said: “The conditions in Giwa are horrible. They could make you die. There’s no place to lie down… It’s hot, all your clothes were wet, like they put you in a river… Up to now, nobody has told me why I was taken there, what I did, why I was in detention. I wonder, why did I run from [Boko Haram]?”

UK support to the Nigerian military and unsafe detention centres

The UK Government is supporting the Nigerian armed forces to counter the threat from Boko Haram through British military training and by providing operational guidance and advice.

As part of this support, the UK is one the international donors (including the USA and EU), providing millions of dollars to Operation Safe Corridor – a military-run detention centre set up in 2016 with the aim of ‘de-radicalising and rehabilitating’ alleged Boko Haram fighters or supporters.

Whilst conditions are better at the Safe Corridor site than elsewhere in military detention, and former detainees spoke positively about the psychosocial support and adult education there, Amnesty has documented a number of human rights violations at the site, including:

  • Most of the men and boys there have not been informed of any legal basis for their detention and still lack access to lawyers or courts to contest it. Their promised six-month stay has in some cases extended to 19 months, during which time they are deprived of liberty and under constant armed guard.
  • Former detainees there told Amnesty that medical care was sorely lacking. At least seven detainees have died, many, if not all, after receiving inadequate medical care. The Nigerian authorities did not even notify their families – they were informed by released detainees instead.
  • A vocational training programme that is part of Safe Corridor may amount to forced labour, since most detainees, if not all, have never been convicted of any crime and make everything from shoes to soap to furniture for no pay.
  • The programme also subjects some detainees to unsafe work conditions. Some detainees suffered serious injuries to their hands after being made to work with caustic soda, a highly corrosive substance, without protective equipment. “The caustic soda is dangerous. If it touches your body, it will remove the flesh,” said a 61-year old former detainee.
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Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty UK, said:

“Amnesty’s investigations show the brutal and inhumane treatment of many children by the Nigerian military.

“This must serve as an urgent warning to the UK Government and the British forces currently supporting a military abusing the very people it’s meant to be protecting.

“The UK’s support of a military-run detention centre that is unlawfully imprisoning people, including children, and subjecting them to unsafe conditions is particularly worrying – continued support for the programme must be conditioned on the Nigerian authorities undertaking a full investigation into deaths in the facility and taking steps to ensure the military respects children’s rights.

“The priority must be supporting victims of Boko Haram. The UK Government must work with the Nigerian authorities to ensure that the military is protecting the population, and that absolutely no UK support is contributing to the vile abuses taking place in the context of the conflict.”

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