Connect with us

Global Affairs

Nigeria’s court strike paralyses underfunded justice system | Global development

Published

on

A nationwide strike of court workers in Nigeria is paralysing the justice system, resulting in extended prison remands for those awaiting trial or sentencing and lengthy delays for everyone else.

In March last year, Taiwo Ebun*, 27, was arrested for alleged armed robbery in Lagos. Since then he has been in detention.

He was held in a police station and then transferred to Kirikiri, a maximum-security prison just outside Lagos. His first court appearance was two months ago, one year after his arrest. The magistrate court set the trial for 21 April, but it was postponed to 5 May.

But both dates have passed without any movement in the case due to weeks of strike action by court workers belonging to the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).

The union said the industrial action was to demand financial autonomy for courts, rather than relying on the often corrupt system of funding from state governors, who are regularly accused of misusing funds, with several convicted of fraud.

Nigeria’s constitution gives the judiciary financial autonomy from state governors and heads of courts access to a federal fund. But the government did not comply with this provision in the 1999 constitution until the union took action in 2014 – the second in three nationwide strikes by Nigeria’s court staff.

Last year, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, signed an executive order to implement the provision at state level. But governors have refused to comply and threatened legal action.

The union said the dependence on the executive for funds has affected the day-to-day running of the justice system.

Shobowale Kehinde, chair of JUSUN’s Lagos branch, said: “If the executive arm of the government still pockets the [funds of the] judiciary, that means that for every piece of paper we have to buy, we have to go cap in hand to the executive arm of the government.”

Kehinde said that even though the strike had been primarily about the refusal of the state governors to stick to the law, the welfare of the court workers was also a union grievance.

“For us as the staff, if the place of work is not conducive, it is our right to champion the cause of making our workplace a better place. When we have our autonomy, then the welfare of the staff would be better discussed with the heads of the court.”

As the strike has dragged on, Ebun and thousands of others awaiting trial have been stuck in prison.

Juwon Sanyaolu, 29, a political activist based in Lagos, was arrested with several others in January in Abuja for protesting against government corruption and detained for 11 days.

He has been released on bail but the government has brought a case against him and the other protesters. He was due to appear before magistrates on 5 May but the court closure has left him in limbo.

“I have just been stuck in Abuja since that day. I stay in Lagos, and this is affecting my work,” he told the Guardian.

Inibehe Effiong, a lawyer and activist, said: “The closure is a painful but necessary action that had to be taken because in the long run, if the judiciary is not functioning independently, access to justice is going to suffer.

“We cannot continue with the current arrangement, where state governors see the judiciary as an extension of the ministry of justice and chief judges [as] serving at their pleasure. They don’t allow the heads of the court to have the money they are entitled to.”

A rights activist outside Nigeria’s state high court, August 2020.
A rights activist protesting at the Lagos high court last August. Even before the court workers’ strike, Nigeria’s judicial system left many in jail for years without trial. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty

Lawyers and defendants are increasingly worried about the ever-rising backlog of cases. Even before the strike, it could take months to be allocated a court date. The strike has put more strain on an already underfunded and overwhelmed judiciary.

Effiong said he hoped the heads of the court would come up with a way to address the backlog of cases. But for those in prison awaiting their day in court, each day adds to their ordeal.

“It is frustrating knowing that I am inside for what I did not do, and it is more frustrating that I cannot even know my fate,” Ebun said.

* Name has been changed to protect his identity

Source link

Global Affairs

China calls Nato statement ‘slander’

Published

on

The Chinese mission to the EU denounced a Nato statement that declared Beijing a “security challenge,” saying China is actually a force for peace but will defend itself if threatened, AP reports. The Chinese news release said the Nato statement was a “slander on China’s peaceful development, a misjudgment of the international situation and (Nato’s) own role, and a continuation of the Cold War mentality and organisational political psychology.”

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Thousands of EU Citizens Face Possible Legal Limbo in UK As Settled Status Scheme Ends, Says Report

Published

on

Europe

Get short URL

The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. The EU settlement scheme was designed to offer EU, non-EU EEA, and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members, living in the UK, an opportunity before the end of the transition period to protect their ability to reside in the UK.

A new report has warned that hundreds of thousands of European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their children in the UK are in danger of finding themselves in a post-Brexit legal limbo on 1 July.

The academic campaign group UK in a Changing Europe highlights the fact that unless these citizens meet the government deadline and apply by 30 June for settled or pre-settled status, ahead of the curtailment of the EU Settled Status scheme, their work, rent and retirement rights are at risk.

“If applicants cannot demonstrate they have a ‘right to reside’, they will lose their rights immediately, even if their application is valid. This is likely to impact most severely upon vulnerable applicants with complicated cases. Given delays in processing applications this difference in treatment could become quite significant,” warns the report.

The EU Settled Status scheme grants European Union nationals (as well as those from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and some family members to apply for ‘settled status’ or, if they have less than five years residence, ‘pre-settled status’.

​Alarms have been sounded in “The EU Settlement Scheme” report that while some people have already applied, they are still awaiting a decision from the Home Office.

If they miss the deadline, they may be unable to prove their status when trying to access National Health Service (NHS) services, or travelling.

320,000 people, according to official statistics, are still awaiting a decision on their ‘status – settled status’.
The government has been trying to offer reassurances, saying that those on the waiting list do not need to worry. A “pragmatic and flexible approach” was vowed regarding late applications.

However, Catherine Barnard, deputy director of UK in a Changing Europe and a professor in EU law at Cambridge University, urges people to take stock of the legal implications.

“In order to apply for settled or pre-settled status all you needed to be was resident in the country before 31 December. But in order to be protected after 30 June, if you have not got the status, you have to be exercising EU treaty rights which means you have to be in work, self-employed, a student or a person of independent means,” she was quoted as saying.

Difficulties could be in store for children, the retired or spouses of an EU citizen who are from a non-EU country who have applied for but have not been granted status, underscored Barnard.
Furthermore, older adults who have resided in the country for decades and did not believe they needed to apply for citizenship could be at risk.

​An analysis by UK in a Changing Europe revealed that only 2% of the 5.4 million applications for status fall into the over-65 category. While hailing the success of the EU settled status, Barnard said:

“…It is about to enter a phase that will require sensitive management where the government will need to show pragmatism and flexibility in dealing with difficult cases.”

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 under a negotiated deal – the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement – that provided for an extension of all EU law until 31 December 2020.


©
REUTERS / Toby Melville

Brexit Article 50 bill

On that date, EU free movement law in the UK ended, with the Withdrawal Agreement offering a ‘buffer’ to prevent EU, EEA or Swiss citizens finding themselves stripped of EU free movement law rights and without any other lawful residence status on 1 January 2021.

A grace period of 6 additional months was allowed for European citizens and their family members to protect their lawful UK residence status via the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

 



Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Pegasus spyware: Catalan parliamentary speaker’s cellphone was targeted with a spy program only available to governments | Catalonia | Spain

Published

on

The cellphone used by the speaker in the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent, was targeted with Pegasus, a spy program developed by an Israeli company named NSO, and which can only be purchased by governments and security forces and used to target crime and terrorism.

Torrent’s phone was attacked using Pegasus in 2019, according to a joint investigation by EL PAÍS and The Guardian.

The intrusion into the handset of the pro-Catalan independence politician, who belongs to the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) party, was possible due to a security fault in the WhatsApp messaging service that, between April and May 2019, could be used to install the NSO spy program in at least 1,400 cellphones across the world. The method for the attack was a missed video call, according to WhatsApp.

When you find a Pegasus target, you find the fingerprints of a government

Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton

Pegasus took advantage of this weakness to attack Torrent’s phone, according to Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity group from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, which exclusively investigated the fault in the messaging application in 2019. WhatsApp supplied Citizen Lab with the numbers that had been targeted by the Israeli cyberespionage program, among which was that of Torrent, according to these researchers, who publicly revealed the existence of Pegasus.

EL PAÍS and The Guardian have had access to a certificate emitted by Citizen Lab that validates the fact that the speaker’s phone was attacked with the NSO spyware. “The investigation identified that the number belongs to Mr Roger Torrent,” the analysis states.

The document explains that the attackers resorted to a missed WhatsApp call “that did not require a response” to target the politician’s phone, and it contains “ample evidence that could establish that Torrent was monitored.”

Torrent’s phone figures on a list of a hundred or so cases across the world that were compiled by Citizen Lab of “representatives of civil society” who were indiscriminately attacked via the WhatsApp vulnerability, according to the Canadian institution. Citizen Lab states that 130 activists have been unjustified victims of the NSO program since 2016.

Pegasus permits conversations to be listened to, messages read, access to the phone’s memory, screenshots to be taken, browsing history to be tracked and for remote access of the device’s microphone and camera. This opens the door for the program to listen to the ambient sound in a room if a phone has been infected. The system even allows for encrypted messages and voice calls to be recorded, according to the Canadian experts.

In 2018, Pegasus was being used in 45 countries, targeting activists in Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico

The researchers connected the mysterious disappearance of WhatsApp messages from Torrent’s cellphone in 2019 with an indication that the phone “could have been manipulated by a third party and infected.” And while they cannot identify who ordered the attack, they point out that the Israeli firm that created Pegasus “exclusively sells its products to governments.” This fact is confirmed by NSO on its website, where it presents its services as solutions for the armed forces and the police to combat crime.

While Torrent’s cellphone was targeted by Pegasus, in 2019, the parliamentary speaker took part in dozens of political meetings and also appeared as a witness in Spain’s Supreme Court during the trial of the politicians and civil leaders who were involved in the 2017 independence drive in the Catalonia region, which saw an illegal referendum on secession from Spain held in October of that year. Among the sentences handed down by the court, Carme Forcadell, Torrent’s predecessor as speaker in the regional parliament, was given 11-and-a-half years in jail for the offense of sedition.

In May 2019, when he was being targeted with Pegasus, Torrent took part in a meeting in Strasbourg with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatvic.

“I noticed strange things,” Torrent explains. “WhatsApp messages and chat histories would be deleted. It didn’t happen to the people around me.” The politician also says that he received “strange” SMS messages in 2019. Torrent says that he sees the hand of the “Spanish state” behind the Pegasus attack.

“The government has no evidence that the speaker of the Catalan parliament, Roger Torrent […] [has] been the targets of hacking via their mobiles,” says a spokesperson from the Spanish government, who points out that any monitoring of communications requires a court order.

A spokesperson from the CNI, Spain’s intelligence services, says that the organization acts “in full accordance with the legal system, and with absolute respect for the applicable laws.” The same spokesperson adds that the actions of the secret service are supervised by a magistrate from the Supreme Court.

EL PAÍS and The Guardian have unsuccessfully tried to obtain the versions of the Civil Guard, the National Police and the Interior Ministry as to what happened.

Citizen Lab recognizes the difficulty of proving the reach of the cyber attack on Torrent’s cellphone, given that, as it indicates, the NSO programs “have an erasing system on the devices.” “When you find a Pegasus target, you find the fingerprints of a government,” says the researcher from this group, John Scott-Railton.

We can confirm that Torrent’s telephone was targeted. However, additional investigation would be necessary to confirm that the phone was hacked

Citizen Lab researcher John Scott-Railton

According to the expert, “we can confirm that [Torrent’s] telephone was targeted. However, additional investigation would be necessary to confirm that the phone was hacked. At this time we have no reason to believe that it wasn’t.”

After being informed about the issue by this newspaper, Torrent’s team got in touch last Thursday with Scott-Railton. “They gave us the cellphone of the parliamentary speaker without us having asked for it and they said that it was among those attacked by Pegasus,” a spokesperson for the politician explains. “Was the infection successful? [Citizen Lab researcher John] Scott-Railton believes so because Torrent’s WhatsApp messages in 2019 were erased, which is one of the effects of Pegasus.”

Controlled by the London-based fund Novalpina Capital, NSO says that it has a policy for the investigation of the improper use of its systems.

NSO has refused to clarify if Spain is among its clients. “Due to confidentiality agreements, we cannot confirm which authorities use our technology,” the company replied via email. The firm has said that it will begin an investigation “if it is proved” that its products were used improperly in Spain.

The Israeli company has distanced itself in the United States’ courts from the improper use of its spy program. The firm attributes this responsibility to its clients, the governments who acquire its products. “If anyone installed Pegasus on any alleged ‘target devices’ it was not [the] defendants [NSO Group]. It would have been an agency of a sovereign government,” the company stated as a defense in a lawsuit that it is involved in with WhatsApp. The messaging application reported NSO in October of last year for using its platform to infect the cellphones of activists and diplomats around the world with Pegasus.

There is no evidence that Spain’s security forces are clients of NSO. The National Police and the CNI did hire their main competitor, Hacking Team from Italy, until at least 2015. This emerged after 400 gigabytes of internal emails from this company were stolen from its servers after they themselves were hacked.

In 2018, Pegasus was being used in 45 countries, according to Citizen Lab, targeting activists in Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

The cellphones of 25 Mexican politicians, activists and reporters, including the journalists Carmen de Arístegui (Arístegui Noticias), Andrés Villareal and Ismael Bojórquez (Río Doce) and Carlos Loret de Mola (Televisa) were targeted in 2019. As were three members of the organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, while the leaders of the National Action Party (PAN) Ricardo Anaya and Fernando Rodríguez Noval were also monitored. Omar Radi, a 33-year-old Moroccan journalist, also saw his phone infected by Pegasus after he criticized a judge.

English version by Simon Hunter.



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!