12 October 2012

Nigeria: Judges and Commonwealth Act On Terrorism

press release

"Terrorism has no boundaries, it has no colour, no tribe, and there is no country that can say they are immune from acts of terrorism so we all have to work together" - Nigeria's Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta

Nigerian federal High Court judges met in London with Commonwealth, UN and UK experts to examine and improve on the adjudication of terrorism cases.

The training focused on, among others, fair hearing in terrorism cases, security and safety of courts and personnel, witness protection and assistance and case management.

The Commonwealth in collaboration with the Terrorism Branch of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provided the assistance in an effort to strengthen criminal justice delivery in Nigeria.

Twenty judges from the Federal High Court, including the Chief Judge, attended the four-day training workshop at the Commonwealth Secretariat headquarters in Marlborough House, which concluded today (Friday, 12 October).

Since 2010 Northern Nigeria has suffered mass attacks, including bombings and kidnappings, by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram.

"This terrorism issue caught us unawares, we are not used to it and we are not prepared for it. Terrorism has no boundaries, it has no colour, no tribe, and there is no country that can say they are immune from acts of terrorism so we all have to work together," said Nigeria's Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.

During the workshop the judges and experts from the UK Crown Prosecution Service, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UN Human Rights Council and Counter-Terrorism Committee, examined the international legal framework, the current and evolving trends in terrorism, and shared best practices in the effective adjudication of terrorism-related cases. These included the delicate balancing of judicial procedural measures and human rights principles.

Nigeria's National Judicial Institute also plans to include the lessons learned in its training curriculum for future judges.

Shadrach Haruna, Legal Adviser, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division (LCAD) at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: "On the human rights issue, terrorism is no different from any other crime in that the same human rights standards apply. We are looking at how to balance the human rights effectively with the rights of the accused persons, as well as the victim and the general public. When we talk of criminal justice we're talking about justice for the accused person, justice for the state and justice for the victim."

One of the participants, Justice Olayinka Faji, said: "With this training our job will be made easier. When we go back home we will be able to do more as judges in our courts, and it will impact positively on the general administration of justice in Nigeria."

Justice Ada Onyatenu remarked that the training was interesting and eye-opening: "I was interested in the witness protection scheme because we do not have anything like that and you cannot have a successful trial without witnesses, their evidence is crucial.

"I have learnt that there is need for us to look at the international instruments as a guide in our national legislation because we just follow what the national legislation says."

The Secretariat assessed the capacities of relevant agencies to detect and successfully prosecute terrorism in Nigeria earlier this year, following a request from the Nigerian government.

The Commonwealth Plan of Action on Terrorism (CPAT) calls for assistance to be provided to member countries to combat terrorism. The work of the Secretariat, as outlined in the CPAT, is consistent with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006, which requires action in four pillars: preventing and combating terrorism, building states' capacity and national co-ordination, international and regional co-operation and co-ordination, and measures to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

The Secretariat addresses these pillars through regional and national workshops designed to aid criminal justice officials in combating terrorism and related issues.

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