Special tribunal to try Ogoni leaders

November 23, 1994

Special tribunal to try Ogoni leaders

Nigerian military authorities have appointed a three person "special tribunal" to try Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders, held since May.

Government-controlled media reported during the November 12-13 weekend that the tribunal will "handle the case of those to be prosecuted in connection with the killing last May of four Ogoni leaders allegedly by Ogoni youths."

The Ogoni are engaged in a non-violent struggle for their environmental and human rights against the Nigerian military government and multinational oil companies such as Shell. In January 1993 they took their cause to the international community and since then have experienced an increasing cycle of violence and oppression which has cost the lives of more than 1500 Ogoni people.

The Movement of the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) issued a statement calling for their leaders to be tried in civil courts and not by one of Nigeria's infamous "special tribunals".

Special tribunals established by the military in the past have been condemned by international human rights organisations and criticised as "grossly unfair" by Amnesty International. The Ogoni leaders will face the death penalty if past tribunals are an indication. No formal charges have been made against any of the arrested Ogoni leaders.

The military authorities continue to ignore a civil court ruling that the Ogoni leaders have access to their lawyers, doctors, family and visitors.

Since the end of October, Ogoniland has come under increased pressure from the security forces. Road blocks have reappeared on the Port Harcourt-Bori-Kono road. Security forces have reportedly harassed, intimidated and extorted money from Ogoni travellers. Reports of raids on church services, the arrest and harassment of church leaders and workers have also increased.
[Information from Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation.]

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