224/98 : Media Rights Agenda / Nigeria
Summary of Facts
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1. The communication, which was sent through e-mail, is dated 25 May 1998, and was received at
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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
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.

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