Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), has issued a damning report against the British Government for abandoning the Leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu; and other British nationals abroad who are victims of political persecution.
The report is sequel to petition by Kanu’s family accusing the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO, of not making any substantial efforts to save Kanu, a British citizen.
FAC said that the UK Government “is failing to prevent Abductor States from weaponising the citizenship of British nationals for geopolitical ends.”
Kanu has remained in solitary confinement at the Abuja headquarters of the Department of State Services, DSS, since he was “abducted in Kenya and extraordinarily renditioned to Nigeria in June 2021.”
The report according to Kanu’s lawyer, Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP, made various recommendations to combat the UK Government’s failure to effectively assist British nationals like Kanu, who find themselves subject to gross violations of their human rights abroad.
She said the following recommendations are directly relevant to Mr Kanu’s case, “though his family are fearful that the proposed policy reforms may come too late to help him.
“Whereas in Mr Kanu’s case – there is a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion that a detention of a UK citizen is illegal, the FCDO should assume that the case will not be judged in line with international standards and should respond accordingly.The Government should as a matter of practice promote public acceptance of the Opinion.
“The report notes that in Mr Kanu’s case, the UK Government has not issued any comment on the UNWGAD’s unequivocal finding that Mr Kanu has been subject to arbitrary detention.
“Within the next 12 months the Government should formalise and publish guidance outlining criteria for determining whether the detention of a UK national by a foreign state is considered arbitrary.
“A review should then be carried out of all UK nationals detained overseas according to the established criteria. The conclusions on the nature of the detention should be used to classify the case internally, in discussions with the family and, where appropriate, publicly.
“The Kanu family supports this recommendation as it has emerged from Mr Kanu’s judicial review challenge that the UK Government does not have any specific policy to deal with British nationals subject to extraordinary rendition abroad.”
According to the report, the FCDO should have a “central repository” for information on cases of arbitrary detention, detailing processes followed and learning gained, and should adopt a “systematic approach to all cases, not simply a sample.”
It further said that majority of families who provided evidence towards the FAC on behalf of loved ones detained abroad described a “consistent feeling of a lack of transparency” from the FCDO and “inadequate” communication regarding the FCDO’s efforts to assist their loved ones.
The Report recommended that “within the next 12 months, the UK Government should undertake appropriate consultation to establish the position of Director for Arbitrary and Complex Detentions, with a mandate including “coordinating the response to certain cases, providing a point of contact for families, convening a cross-government response, and coordinating the UK’s response to the multilateral efforts to address state hostage taking and arbitrary detention with a relentless focus on them. The post-holder should have a direct line to the Prime Minister.”
It further said that “the presumption that “quiet diplomacy” is always appropriate throughout cases of state detention “is a false one” and the UK Government should use “the strongest possible language to call out” situations of state detention.
“This is particularly notable in Mr Kanu’s case where the FCDO has repeatedly asserted, without any explanation, that the diplomatic approach it is adopting is appropriate, despite there being no tangible improvement in his case after nearly two years,” it added.
The Report further said that the UK Government “must use every means at its disposal to secure the basic level of consular access it commits to provide for its nationals and that it is entitled to under international law—regardless of the perceived legitimacy of the charges or rigour of the legal system.
Ms Marker commended FAC for the Report which she said was timely released.
“The publication of the Report is timely, as the Kanu family are about to appeal against the UK High Court judgment that the FCDO can lawfully evade reaching any conclusion on whether Mr Kanu has been subject to extraordinary rendition.
“The FAC’s Report is a damning indictment of the government’s efforts to assist British nationals subject to serious violations abroad and unfortunately reflects the experience of Mr Kanu’s family in trying to engage the FCDO in his case.
“We welcome the FAC’s insightful recommendations and hope that the UK government will take immediate steps to implement them.
“In criticising the blanket ‘quiet diplomacy’ approach adopted by the FCDO the Report demonstrates further that the FCDO’s current position is untenable. We hope the FCDO will rethink it in the light of the Report but are ready to put our concerns to the Court of Appeal if it will not do so.”
Reacting on behalf of the family, Kanu’s brother, Kingsley Kanu, expressed disappointment that for nearly two years, the UK had been prevaricative over Kanu’s ordeals.
“For nearly two years now, our family have been pressing the UK government to take more robust action to assist my brother. However, the UK government has responded by wringing its hands, procrastinating and offering platitudes rather than action that makes a difference.
“The government has not been willing to even reach a conclusion, privately or publicly, on whether Nnamdi has been subject to extraordinary rendition and has constantly told us that the approach it is taking is the most appropriate one.
“It is satisfying to us that the FAC has called into question the FCDO’s blanket approach of ‘quiet diplomacy’ and has been critical of the level of protection the FCDO currently offers to British nationals detained abroad. We hope that the FCDO
will take the recommendations into consideration and will reconsider its approach to my brother’s case in light of them.”