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Practical tips on taking action against peaceful protest violations

How can Security Agencies violate my right to peaceful protest?

Security agencies can violate the right to peaceful protest by any of the following means:

  • Preventing the conduct of a peaceful assembly on the ground that a permit or license is not obtained.
  • The use of force and/or firearms to disperse a peaceful assembly.
  • Arresting or detaining a peaceful protester.
  • Causing physical harm to participants of a protest.

However, this list is not exhaustive as there could be many more ways this right could be violated.

1

What can I do where I am harmed by security forces during a protest?

When harmed by security forces, these are the measures to take:

  • First seek medical attention and obtain medical reports and pictures of the harm done.
  • Contact a lawyer, human right organization or NHRC for assistance.
  • Notify the appropriate authority in charge of the offender, attaching the medical reports and pictures to the notice.

If no positive response is received, then proceed to file a case in court to seek the enforcement of your right.

As an alternative to filing a suit, you could ask a lawyer to write a petition to the authorities in charge of the offender (the AIG or Human Rights Department of the Nigerian police Force, in the case of an offending police officer).

2

Who can start this action for the enforcement of my right?

Like every other lawsuit, an action for the enforcement of your right can be instituted by yourself through a Lawyer. Any person whose right has been breached can institute an action in the appropriate court of Justice.

 1. Rights of family members to sue:

It has often been debated that in the case of death of the victim during a protest, the family cannot sue to enforce his right to life and other related human rights. However, the court of Appeal in Bright Ogunjimi v. Nigeria Police Force and 4 others (unreported) Appeal no: CA/B/138/2015 the court reiterated that the family members of a deceased party can sue on his/her behalf to enforce his/her fundamental human rights. In this case, the brother of the deceased successfully sued to enforce the right of his late brother who was unlawfully killed by the police.

 

2. Right of NGOs and CSOs to sue:

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and Civil Societies involved in human rights litigation can assist or even sue on behalf of aggrieved parties to enforce their rights. The preamble of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 expressly states in paragraph 3 (e) as follows:

“The Court shall encourage and welcome public interest litigations in the human rights field and no human rights case may be dismissed or struck out for want of locus standi. In particular, human rights activists, advocates, or groups as well as any non-governmental organisations, may institute human rights application on behalf of any potential applicant. In human rights litigation, the applicant may include any of the following: Anyone acting in his own interest:

  1. Anyone acting on behalf of another person;
  2. Anyone acting as a member of, or in the interest of a group or class of persons;

      iii. Anyone acting in the public interest, and

  1. Association acting in the interest of its members or other individuals or groups.”
3

Who can this action be brought against?

An action for the enforcement of fundamental human rights can be instituted against any person (juristic person) who has violated a right, irrespective of whether it is an individual, organization or public authority that is responsible.

Consequently, an action can be brought against an individual, a group, the state, the Attorney general, the Armed Forces, etc.

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