Shirin Marker, a UK lawyer, has given why the British government’s silence on the extraordinary rendition of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), may affect other UK citizens.
Ms Marker, a solicitor from Bindmans LLP, the law firm representing Mr Kanu’s family in UK court, stated this in a post on the firm’s website on Wednesday.
Mr Kanu, a Nigerian-British citizen, was first arrested in 2015 under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.
The IPOB leader was later granted bail in April 2017. He fled the country after an invasion of his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State, by the Nigerian military in September of that year.
He was re-arrested in Kenya and brought back to Nigeria in June 2021, about four years after he fled the country.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on 13 October, held that the IPOB leader was extra-ordinarily renditioned to Nigeria and that the action was a flagrant violation of the country’s extradition treaty and a breach of Mr Kanu’s fundamental human rights.
But the government refused to release the IPOB leader, insisting that he could be unavailable in subsequent court proceedings if released and that his release would cause insecurity in the South-east.
The government, through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, later appealed the court ruling and subsequently obtained an order staying the execution of the court judgement at the Supreme Court.
Since his alleged extraordinary rendition to Nigeria, successive UK Foreign Secretaries – Dominic Raab and Liz Truss (before she became prime minister) had refused to state if Mr Kanu was a victim of extraordinary rendition despite “overwhelming evidence,” Mr Kanu’s family said.
The family, consequently, applied to challenge the UK government over its failure to state her position.
The application was filed at the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, by the IPOB leader’s brother, Kingsley.
It sought permission for a judicial review of the UK government’s “silence” on Mr Kanu’s detention and trial in Nigeria. It was later granted around September last year.
The case was heard before Justice Swift at the High Court on 15 November 2022, and judgment was handed on 23 March 2023.
In his ruling, Mr Swift called for Mr Kanu’s release because his ongoing detention was severe and arbitrary wrongs were committed against him, including being subjected to degrading treatment and rendition.
The court, however, held that Mr Kanu had no legitimate expectation that the British government should reach a firm view for itself on what had occurred or its seriousness.
It also held that it was rational for the foreign secretary to maintain a ‘provisional view’ on whether Mr Kanu has been subjected to extraordinary rendition.
The IPOB leader’s family, dissatisfied, appealed the ruling, which would be heard on 22 June.
UK lawyer speaks
Ms Marker said UK citizens travel to other countries with the “assumption” that their country’s authorities would assist them in the event of maltreatment and harm in foreign countries.
She argued that the decision which the UK court will take on 22 June would put those assumptions to the test.
“Nnamdi Kanu’s case, which is awaiting a hearing in the UK’s Court of Appeal on 22 June this year, is set to put each of these assumptions to the test.
“That is because, if the High Court was right to reject his family’s judicial review claim earlier this year, the UK government has what amounts to a right to remain indifferent and passive when British citizens’ rights are grossly abused abroad,” Ms Marker said.
“Indeed, that right would mean the government can avoid ever making a decision about what has happened or is happening to its citizens when they are abroad and desperately seeking its help.”
The legal practitioner said Mr Kanu, as a British Citizen, “travelled with the same expectations of protection by the British state as any other British citizen who may be mistreated abroad,” but that the protection has been “conspicuously lacking.”
“The British government’s inadequate approach to Mr Kanu’s case is symptomatic of a wider failure to protect its citizens abroad,” she stated.
She said Mr Kanu’s upcoming case would set “an important precedent on whether the British government has the right to avoid making a decision on whether a British citizen is subject to fundamental breaches of international law,” in spite of overwhelming evidence of violations of their rights.
“Anyone travelling with a British passport should look out for the ruling and hope that the court will firmly restate and apply the principles in Abassi so that they can be confident that their government will properly consider what protection they need abroad, should such a need ever arise.”
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