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School Children's rights lead call for release of Nigerian child prisoner

Young people from across London and Hertfordshire converge on Nigerian High Commission in London

Fourteen 14-year-olds led an Amnesty International delegation to the Nigerian High Commission in London today to hand in hundreds of letters from young people from across the country calling for the immediate release of Nigerian child prisoner Patrick Okoroafor.

Patrick was arrested at the age of 14 and charged with robbery by Nigerian authorities – a crime he has said he did not commit. He has now spent a total of 14 years in captivity.

SchoolChildren's rights from Addington High School in Croydon, Petchey Academy in Hackney and Freman College in Buntingford, Hertfordshire took part in the demonstration and carried a giant 3-D number 14 decorated by images from their counterparts across the UK.

14-year old Charlotte Benjamin from Addington High School was one of the teenagers who led the delegation. She said:

“Patrick was my age – 14 – when he was arrested in Nigeria. At 16 he was sentenced to death for his ‘crime’. He has now spent over half of his life behind bars.

“Although a High Court judgment declared Patrick’s death sentence to be illegal, null and void in 2001, he still has to spend another 10 years in Nigeria's Aba prison. That totally goes against human rights standards.

“Patrick should not have to spend a minute longer in jail – 14 years is enough. In fact it’s a lifetime.”

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, added:

“Amnesty International is appalled by the continuing imprisonment of Patrick Okoroafor.

“It is fantastic that so many Children's rights have taken an interest in the plight of Patrick Okoroafor and the incarceration of minors across the globe. The Nigerian authorities should take notice and release him immediately.”

The demonstration was part of a global day of action by Amnesty International for Patrick Okoroafor, which also saw events take place in Algeria, Austria, Benin, Burkina, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal, Sweden, Togo, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.

An Amnesty International delegation will also visit Owerri, Imo State, to ask the governor to release Patrick Okoroafor.

In May 2009, the State Governor commuted Patrick Okoroafor’s sentence from an indefinite sentence to 10 years’ imprisonment starting now. If Patrick completes his sentence he will have spent a total of 24 years in prison.

Besides Patrick Okoroafor's age at the time of arrest, there were irregularities in his trial and subsequent detention. Amnesty is calling for his immediate release on the following grounds:

Patrick was only fourteen at the time of his arrest. He was questioned by police alone, with no legal representation, and he alleges that he was tortured
He was tried by a military tribunal, which the African Commission has found to violate rules of fair trial. He had no right to an appeal
He was originally sentenced to be executed, a sentence which has since been held to be illegal due to his age
He was subsequently sentenced to a period of 'indefinite detention', a sentence that violated international human rights standards
His current sentence of ten years is arbitrary
Patrick’s health is suffering severely as a result of his imprisonment and he may not survive a further ten years in prison

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