As the mass trial of Boko Haram suspects on terrorism-related charges continues in Nigeria, Amnesty International has argued that it will be impossible for the suspects to get justice without fair trials.
According to a statement issued yesterday by Amnesty International Nigeria's Media Manager, Isa Sanusi, the rights group said it had repeatedly documented how thousands of people were rounded up in arbitrary arrests with no evidence and held for years in detention.
Speaking on the trials of the Boko Haram suspects, Amnesty International Nigeria's Director Osai Ojigho, said: "These trials should provide a much-needed opportunity to deliver justice for the many victims of human rights abuses and crimes allegedly committed by Boko Haram members."
"However, the fact the trials are taking place behind closed doors, with no access for the media or the public, raises huge concerns. Public hearings are crucial for protecting an individual's right to a fair trial and due process," Ojigho added.
"The Nigerian authorities must ensure that all fair trial rights are respected. Defendants must have access to lawyers and interpreters if required, and that witnesses and victims are protected from potential reprisals," Ojigho said.
Amnesty International said it had repeatedly documented how thousands of people have been rounded up in mass arbitrary arrests with little or no evidence and held in detention for years.
"In instances where no prima facie case has been established, as is reportedly the situation in some of the cases, detainees should be immediately released," the statement said.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had announced that the prosecution of 2,321 suspected members of Boko Haram would begin on October 9.
A statement issued by Mr. Salihu Isah, Special Adviser, Media and Publicity to the minister said the suspects were being detained in various detention facilities across the country.
While there are 1,670 detainees held at a detention facility in Kainji another 651 detainees are in detention in Maiduguri.
Isah also said that 220 detainees have been recommended for release and will participate in the deradicalisation programme for want of evidence.
In order to fast-track the prosecution of the cases, he said the justice minister had approved a list of prosecutors to handle the cases, adding that the Legal Aid Council had equally agreed to provide counsel to represent accused persons that cannot afford lawyers.
He said four judges had been designated by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to hear the cases at Kainji and dispose of them expeditiously.
According to him, 13 cases had been concluded, with nine convictions secured while 33 cases were on trial at various Federal High Court divisions.
Another 116 cases have been filed but the suspects were yet to be arraigned.
He said the trial of those detained in Kainji would start first to be followed by those detained in Maiduguri.