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Nigeria: Henry Okah Alleges Unfair Trial By South African Court

Idemudia Uriesi, counsel to Henry Okah, who is suspected to have masterminded the Independence Day bombings in Nigeria in 2010, has said that his client never participated in the incident.

Uriesi’s position comes shortly before a South African court prepares to deliver ruling in a case involving Okah against the Nigerian Government. 

In a statement sent to SaharaReporters, Uriesi said, “Firstly, as both family lawyer and defense attorney to Mr Okah for the past seven years, I can categorically confirm that he has never admitted to having taking part in the bombings of March 15, 2010 in Warri, Delta State, or those of October 1, 2010 in Abuja in any form as has been reported. These were not admissions by the accused but findings made by the trial court.

“The constitutional court, the highest court in South Africa, dismissed Mr Okah’s appeal on the merits on February 23, 2018. In fact, it upheld almost all of the findings made by the trial court. 

“However, what is of significance in that judgment of Henry Okah v The State CCT315/16 & CCT 193/17 was that the constitutional court had inadvertently found that Okah had been inappropriately tried under South African law and should correctly have been tried under International Humanitarian Law. 

“In other words, it affirmed Mr Okah’s long held position that South Africa had no jurisdiction to try him and that such was the domain of the International Criminal Court sitting in The Hague.

“As it were, this finding made by the constitutional court when it dismissed Mr Okah’s appeal on the merits in February 2018, has turned the entire case on its head, despite the dismissal. 

“We say this for several reasons chief of which is that the conditions for the trial of a person accused of involvement in a non-international armed conflict under IHL is vastly different in substance and procedure to the laws of any sovereign prosecuting power.

“Mr Okah has regularly used the analogy of a soccer match to explain his position. 

“He argues that you cannot have a soccer match and have two different rules for the two opposing sides. There must be one referee and one set of rules applied equally to both parties. 

“In this regard, Mr Okah was fighting the Nigerian Government. South Africa cannot claim to have jurisdiction over Okah and/or MEND, but does not have jurisdiction over his opponent which in essence was the Government of Nigeria. 

“A South African court does not have the power to subpoena anybody from Nigeria to appear before it, not even the urchin in the street. 

“But the ICC has jurisdiction over all parties to a conflict and can subpoena anybody, including the Head of State.” 

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Written by How South Africa

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