European Union reacts to Sowore’s situation

The European Union (EU) Delegation in Nigeria has asked the Federal Government to ensure it follows the due process of the law in handling the vexed issue of the detained activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyole Sowore, as well as other detainees in Nigeria.

The delegation said it has been following closely the developments and hoped that the justice system in Nigeria will do all that is necessary to ensure that the rights of citizens to freedom of expression and personal liberty were not trampled upon. EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, stated this yesterday at an event organised by the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and the British Council to mark the 2019 International Human Rights Day in Nigeria.

Karlsen, who was responding to question on various incidents of human rights violations in Nigeria, noted that the EU would remain firm on the principle of freedom of speech. He described the concept of free expression as a fundamental pillar of democracy which is enshrined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Convention as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

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“In any democratic society, there is the need for people to be able to express themselves freely and be able to participate as long as they do so peacefully. This is a crucial element of democracy. “As a matter of principle, it is important that when somebody is detained, there is a due process and the justice system provides access to justice.

As always, it is not for the European Union or the EU Ambassador to interfere in the democratic process in the countries where we operate, but it goes without saying that we are following the issue (Sowore’s detention saga) very closely and as much as we can. We hope that there will be due process and that the justice system will do all that is necessary for detainees to access justice,” he said.

The event was organised around two panel discussions on pressing issues affecting ordinary citizens in Nigeria namely, Law Enforcement, Citizen Liberties and the Rule of Law in Nigeria as well as Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Nigeria. It was also the grand finale of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in Nigeria. According to Karlsen, given the long years of struggles to ensure that human rights were equally guaranteed to all without regards to gender, one would have expected that everything would be rosy by now.

“But as we all know, I think that is not the case. We must not take human rights for granted because everywhere you go, either in the European Union, Africa or Nigeria; we still have issues of human rights. So we must not give up the fight for human rights in general and women’s right in particular. “People have said that women’s rights are human rights, but it seems that sometimes it is not exactly the case as we have seen with the increasing cases of gender-based violence,” he said.

Karlsen attributed the increasing rate of gender-based violence in Nigeria on a number of factors, including socio-cultural practices and conflicts in some parts of the country. He urged the generality of Nigerians, especially the celebrities and social media influencers, to advance the agitation of zero tolerance for gender-based violence beyond the ceremony.

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