224/98 : Media Rights Agenda / Nigeria Summary of Facts th 1. The communication, which was sent through e-mail, is dated 25 May 1998, and was received at th the Secretariat on 26 May 1998 2. The complaint is filed by Media Rights Agenda, a Nigerian Human Rights NGO based in Lagos, on behalf of Niran Malaolu, Editor of an independent Nigerian daily newspaper, “The Diet”. 3. The author complains that Mr Niran Malaolu was arrested together with three other staff of the newspaper by armed soldiers at the editorial offices of the “Diet” Newspaper in Lagos on th 28 December 1997. 4. Neither Niran Malaolu nor his three colleagues were informed of the reasons for their arrest or shown a warrant of arrest. 5. The three other colleagues who were arrested along with Malaolu were later released. th 6. Niran Malaolu continued to be held without charges until 14 February 1998 when he was arraigned before a Special Military Tribunal for his alleged involvement in a coup. 7. Throughout the period of his incarceration, Niran Malaolu was not allowed access to his lawyer, doctor or family members. th 8. On 28 April 1998, after a secret trial, Niran Malaolu was found guilty by the tribunal of the charge of concealment of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. 9. The Complainant further alleges that Niran Malaolu’s alleged involvement in the coup is connected with the news stories published by his newspaper on the coup plot involving the then Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Oladipo Diya, as well as other military officers and civilians who have also been convicted by the tribunal and given sentences ranging from prison terms to death by firing squad. 10. One of such stories was an article entitled "The Military Rumbles Again", which was published in th the “Sunday Diet” of 28 December 1997, based upon the announcement by the military government of the alleged coup plot it claims to have uncovered. 11. Further, the Complainant alleges that Niran Malaolu was denied the right to be defended by lawyers of his choice, and, instead, assigned a military lawyer by the tribunal in contravention of the right to fair hearing. 12. The Special Military Tribunal that tried Niran Malaolu was neither competent, independent nor impartial in that members of the tribunal were hand-picked by the Head of State, General Sani Abacha, and the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) against whom the alleged offence was committed. Besides, the President of the tribunal, Major-General Victor Malu is also a member of the PRC, which is empowered by the Treason and Other Offences (Special Military Tribunal) Decree No. 1 of 1986, to confirm the death sentences passed by the tribunal. These are alleged to be in violation of the rules of natural justice and, in particular, Article 7.1.b of the Charter. 13. The arraignment and trial of Niran Malaolu, a civilian before the Special Military Tribunal using special procedures is a breach of Principle 5 of the United Nations Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and Article 7 of the Charter. 14. The Complainant alleges further that under the provisions of the Treason and Other Offences (Special Military Tribunal) Decree No. 1 of 1986, which established the tribunal that tried and convicted the accused, the right of appeal to a higher judicial authority is completely extinguished and those convicted may only appeal to the PRC, the composition and interests of which are indicated in paragraph 12 above. 15. The Author also contends that the trial of Niran Malaolu in camera was a violation of recognised international human rights standards, to wit: the right to a fair and public hearing. 16. Finally, that the arrest, detention, arraignment, trial, conviction and sentence of Malaolu was in breach of the norms of fair trial guaranteed in the Charter.