The United Nations has said it will take appropriate action over the execution of 54 soldiers sentenced to death by the Nigerian Army on December 17.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns, in a letter to The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, said, “Appropriate action, including communication to the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, is being considered regarding the imminent execution of 54 soldiers in Nigeria.”

A General Court-Martial set up by the Army authorities had sentenced the 54 soldiers to death by firing squad for alleged offences of mutiny and conspiracy.

SERAP, in a petition dated December 23 and addressed to a group of five UN special human rights rapporteurs and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, described the mass death sentences on the soldiers as “unjust and incompatible with fundamental human rights.”

The rights group had urged the rapporteurs to use their good offices and positions to prevail on the Federal Government and the Army authorities not to carry out the mass death sentences imposed on the 54 soldiers.

In a statement by the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, on Sunday, SERAP expressed satisfaction over the decision of the UN to intervene in the execution of the soldiers.

“Given his longstanding human rights commitment and achievements, we have absolutely no doubt that Mr. Heyns will work assiduously to ensure that justice is done in this matter and we wish him well as he strives to do that,” Mumuni stated.

SERAP said, “The General Court-Martial, held in secret, was a mockery of justice and ignored issues raised by the condemned men that suggest lack of transparency, accountability and general deficiencies in the handling of the security budget and arms purchases.”

The statement read,   “The UN has also acknowledged the discriminatory and arbitrary nature of judicial processes and the danger of the death penalty being used as a tool of repression. It has documented evidence to show that the death penalty is no deterrent, stressing that ‘depriving a human person of his or her life is incompatible with the trend in the 21st Century.”

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