The hearing in the judicial review challenge against the Foreign Secretary, brought on behalf of separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, took place on Tuesday at The Royal Court of Justice London, United Kingdom (UK).
Bellnews online.com reports that Kanu is the British-Nigerian leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), an outlawed group that calls for self-determination for the southeast geopolitical zone.
In June 2021, Kanu was arrested at an airport in Nairobi, Kenya by security services and was detained in the East African country. He was then flown on a private plane to Nigeria.
For the past 18 months, he has been held in solitary confinement in a cell at the Department of State Services (DSS) headquarters in Abuja. Kanu had reportedly travelled to Kenya on his British passport.
Since his detention in Nigeria, Kanu’s family have been asking the British government to take steps to secure his release on the grounds there was no lawful basis for bringing him to Nigeria, and he was, therefore, subject to what they tag as “extraordinary rendition”.
Kanu’s family has also argued that his ongoing detention is arbitrary. However, the Foreign Secretary has, to date, failed to reach a firm view on whether Kanu was subject to extraordinary rendition.
The family’s legal team brought the challenge on the basis that reaching a firm view is necessary to lawfully determine what steps should be taken to assist Kanu.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Charlotte Kilroy KC, acting for Kanu’s brother, Kingsley ‘Kanunta’ Kanu, highlighted that the IPOB leader has been the victim of a brazen and violent extraordinary rendition.
She stated that this is not the first time that the Nigerian government has tried to harm Kanu.
In September 2017, when he was at his home in Nigeria, the Nigerian military launched a violent raid on his house and killed 28 members of IPOB in the process.
She cited a Nigerian court judgment in which the judge described the Nigerian government’s agents as ‘[setting] out as pythons to terminate the life’ of Kanu.
She then outlined the evidence that Kanu has been subject to extraordinary rendition, noting that the Nigerian government itself has admitted in domestic proceedings that it transferred Kanu to Nigeria without any lawful warrant for arrest nor any extradition process.
Moreover, the Nigerian Court of Appeal ruled that Kanu was subject to extraordinary rendition, a position she said the Federal Court of Nigeria subsequently adopted.
She explained that given the danger Kanu faces from the Muhammadu Buhari administration, it is incumbent on the British government to assist him.
She referred the court to domestic policies that evidence a clear acceptance by the British government that it has a role in protecting its citizens abroad, where there is evidence of a miscarriage of justice, and various instances in which the British government has publicly condemned the actions of other States or called for the release of its citizens where they have been arbitrarily detained abroad.
She argued that the evidence of Kanu’s “rendition” has been clear and overwhelming for some time.
In response, Sir James Eadie KC, acting on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, stated that reaching a firm view on whether Kanu was subject to extraordinary rendition was a matter of foreign policy in which the courts must not interfere.
He added that there was no legal basis for the court to require the Foreign Secretary to reach a view, and that Kanu’s challenge was ‘pointless’.
Following the hearing, the parties are now waiting for the court to provide its ruling.
Reflecting on the hearing, Kingsley Kanu, who brought the challenge, said: “It is well known that the Nigerian courts are heavily influenced by the Nigerian government.
“However, they have been brave enough to take a firm stand and rule that my brother was subject to extraordinary rendition at the hands of the Nigerian government.
“If the Nigerian courts can do this, it is not clear to me what further evidence the British government needs to reach a firm view.
“I hope that the UK court will now require the Foreign Secretary to reach a firm view.”
Shirin Marker, one of the Solicitors representing Kanu said: “Kanu is a British citizen, who has been subject to one of the most serious and egregious breaches of human rights.
“The government’s position in refusing to reach a view on whether he has been subject to extraordinary rendition amounts to a refusal to condemn this breach.
“If the courts allow the British government to take this position, this sets a deeply troubling and dangerous precedent for any British citizen, who might find themselves at risk abroad.”
Kanu’s family is represented by John Halford and Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP, together with Charlotte Kilroy KC of Blackstone Chambers and Tatyana Eatwell of Doughty Street Chambers.