The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday welcomed the decision by the Nigerian authorities to start the trials of Boko Haram suspects.
The UN rights office said many of the suspects had been in prolonged pre-trial detention, including some since 2009, according to a statement by Spokesperson for OHCHR, Rupert Colville.
“We welcome the decision by the Nigerian authorities to start the trials of Boko Haram suspects, many of whom have been in prolonged pre-trial detention, including some since 2009,” OHCHR said.
The UN rights agency, however, expressed concerns over the number of people who were due to be tried over the coming weeks, saying they are no fewer than 2,300.
“We have serious concerns that the conduct of the proceedings may deny the defendants the right to a fair trial and an effective defence.
“The accused, who have all been charged under Nigeria’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, are being tried individually or in groups depending on the nature of their alleged crimes.
“The trials, which are being conducted by four judges, began on Monday at a civilian court set up at a military base and detention centre at Kanji in Niger state.
“The trials are being held behind closed doors with the media and public excluded,” the statement read.
OHCHR said under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a party, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing, unless proceedings need exceptionally to be held in camera.
The UN rights agency said “any restrictions on the public nature of a trial, including for the protection of national security, must be both necessary and proportionate, as assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“It is essential that Boko Haram insurgents are prosecuted and, if found guilty, held to account for killings and abuses they may have perpetrated, and that victims are able to receive justice.
“However, the lack of transparency regarding these trials is worrying, and we note that Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission is not allowed to attend and monitor proceedings.
“We urge the authorities to allow the Commission to conduct such monitoring and, to that end, welcome the fact that the Solicitor General has indicated that he will facilitate such monitoring.
“We call for this to take place without delay. We also stress that the Government must ensure the right of all defendants to legal representation and that the trials adhere to international human rights norms and standards.”