Nigeria: Death Sentence for Activists, 11/01/'95

Nigeria: Death Sentence for Activists, 11/01/'95

Nigeria: Death Sentence for Activists
Date Distributed (ymd): 951101

Pressure from around the world is mounting on the Nigerian government following the death sentence handed down earlier this week for Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues. Reaction has come not only from Nigerian pro- democracy activists and human rights organizations, but also from environmental groups.

While the major immediate focus is on saving the lives of the condemned activists, Nigerian pro- democracy campaigners also stress that pressure on the regime needs to be escalated for release of all detainees and for an end to military rule. Nobel-prize-winning Nigerian author Wole Soyinka urged South Africa in particular to lead the international community in imposing strict economic sanctions on military-ruled Nigeria. "There has to be the threat of withdrawal of diplomatic relations and severe economic sanctions," Soyinka, told BBC radio from exile in Britain. "It is the only way lives will be saved," he said.

The Nigerian Democratic Movement issued the following statement. The two additional bulletins below, from Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, provide additional background and indicate possible action.


About Ken Saro-Wiwa

The death sentences announced today on Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists are simply outrageous, and represent not only a continuation of the oppressive nature of this regime, but also its latest manifestation of a new tendency to draw attention to itself to elicit legitimacy: death sentences, world appeals for clemency, commutation (?), relief from international pressure? No one must be fooled.

The Nigerian Democratic Movement and other well-meaning Nigerians demand justice, freedom and fair- play in Nigeria, and will settle for nothing less. We ask that you join us in vigorously protesting this official policy of hostage-taking by the military junta in Nigeria, and DEMAND THAT NO ONE MUST BE OFFICIALLY MURDERED, not the alleged coupists (for example, in retaliation for their latest revelations), not Saro-Wiwa or any other Ogoni activists.

Issued by the Executive Council of the Nigerian Democratic
Movement (NDM), P.O. Box 91291, Washington, DC 20090; Tel:
202/806-4793; 301/989-0016; 202/395-7052; 301/808-0800;
Fax: 202/806-4632; Email contact:


+ Electronic distribution authorised +
+ This bulletin expires: 12 December 1995. +
EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 44/25/95 31 October 1995

Further information on UA 200/94 (AFR 44/03/94, 24 May 1994) and follow-up (AFR 44/07/94, 27 June 1994) - Prisoners of conscience / Legal concern / Health concern and new concerns: Unfair trial / Death penalty NIGERIA

Ken Saro-Wiwa, writer and environmentalist, President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)

Dr Barinem Kiobel, former Rivers State Commissioner (minister)
and new names: Saturday Dobee
Paul Levura
Nordu Eawo
Felix Nuate
Daniel Gbokoo
John Kpuinen, student
Baribor Bera, farmer

On 30 and 31 October 1995, after what Amnesty International believes to have been politically- motivated and unfair trials, the nine people named above were convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Amnesty International considers at least two of them - Ken Saro-Wiwa and Dr Barinem Kiobel - to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for the non-violent expression of their political views. The nine were convicted in connection with the murder of four Ogoni leaders by an angry crowd in May 1994, for which the leadership of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was pronounced responsible by the authorities the day after the murders. MOSOP, a non- governmental organization in Rivers State, southeast Nigeria, has been targeted by the government in recent years for its non-violent campaign against environmental damage by oil companies and for more autonomy for the Ogoni ethnic group. The defendants were detained incommunicado and without charge for at least eight months before being charged; several were alleged to have been tortured or ill- treated in military custody. They were convicted in two trials conducted simultaneously by a Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. This court, which falls outside the normal judicial system, was appointed by the military government especially to try these cases. The trials contravened Nigerian and international standards for fair trial to which the Nigerian government is committed, in particular the right to fair trial by an independent court and the right of appeal to a higher and independent jurisdiction. The Tribunal has shown itself to be neither independent of government control nor impartial. The Federal Military Government has controlled every aspect of the case: the arrests, investigations, prosecution, appointment of the tribunal and the progress of the trial itself. Two key prosecution witnesses alleged that they were threatened and bribed to give false evidence. The defence lawyers withdrew from the trials in June and July 1995 in protest at continued bias by the Tribunal in favour of the prosecution. Ledum Mitee and four other defendants in the two trials were acquitted. BACKGROUND INFORMATION Following the death in detention in August 1995 of detainee Clement Tusima, apparently after months of serious illness and medical neglect (see UA 219/95, AFR 44/19/95, 15 September), at least 17 other Ogoni detainees arrested in mid-1994 remain imprisoned without trial. They were detained incommunicado and without charge until June 1995 when they were transferred from police detention to prison custody on a "holding charge", but it is not clear whether they too are to be tried by the Civil Disturbances Special Tribunal in connection with the same murders. For further information, please refer to Nigeria: the Ogoni trials and detentions, 15 September 1995 (AFR 44/20/95).
+ Supporters of Amnesty International around the world are
+ writing urgent appeals in response to the concerns
+ described above. If you would like to join with them in
+ this action or have any queries about the Urgent Action
+ network or Amnesty International in general, please
+ contact one of the following:
+ Ray Mitchell, (UK)
+ Scott Harrison, (USA)
+ Guido Gabriel, (Germany)
+ Marilyn McKim, (Canada)
+ Michel Ehrlich, (Belgium)

October 31, 1995



Ken Saro-Wiwa, environmental activist and leader of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, and nine others were sentenced today to death by a Nigerian military tribunal. Saro-Wiwa, recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, leads the struggle of the Ogoni people against Shell Oil, whose operations have contaminated their land and resources for more than three decades. Last year, Saro-Wiwa was jailed in connection with the murder of four Ogoni leaders, which human rights groups have said are false charges. Amnesty International has declared Saro-Wiwa a Prisoner of Conscience.

The four year peaceful campaign of the Ogonis has been met by repression from the Nigerian military dictatorship leading to the deaths of more than 1,000 Ogoni. Shell Oil has also been implicated in the violence that has transcended this region. According to human rights groups, Shell has used military personnel to defend their oil operations, resulting in some injuries and deaths. Since 1958, Royal Dutch Shell has extracted US $30 billion in oil from Ogoniland, but the Ogoni people still lack basic services, healthcare, and jobs.


1. Contact the Clinton Administration and ask that the Administration come out strongly against this sentencing and demand the release of Saro-Wiwa and the others. The United States has political pull with Nigeria, particularly given that the U.S. consumes 70 percent of Nigeria's oil.

Specifically, we are asking that Clinton call General Abacha of Nigeria, denouncing the verdicts and warn that if these people are put to death, it will have profound political ramifcations.

Fax a letter or call:
Anthony Lake
Assistant to the President for National
Security Affairs
National Security Council
Washington, DC 20504
tel: 202-395-3000 fax: 202-456-2883

2. Send a letter to General Abacha, the military ruler of Nigeria, asking for Saro-Wiwa's immediate release, citing the international condemnation this sentencing has received.

Fax letter to:

General Sani Abacha
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
c/o The Nigerian Ambassador to the United States
Nigerian Embassy
1333 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
fax: 202-775-1385

3. Send a letter to Shell denouncing their role in the Ogoni situation and asking for Shell to come out strongly for the release of the wrongly accused.

Fax letter to:
Phillip J. Carroll, CEO
Shell Oil Corporation Houston, Texas
fax: 713-241-4044

For more infomation, contact: Andrea Durbin, FRIENDS OF THE EARTH-USFoE-US tel: 202-783-7400, ext 209 fax: 202-783-0444 email:


From: "APIC"
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 11:17:05 +0000
Subject: Nigeria: Death Sentence for Activists