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#EndSARS: Is there provision for the UN to intervene if ongoing protests last 30 days?

Photo Credit: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP 4 mins read

Claim: a user on Twitter claims that the United Nations constitution stipulates it to intervene in any country’s protest that lasts for more than 30 days.

The claim that the United Nations constitution intervenes in any protest that lasts for over 30 days is not true. The United Nations has no constitution and its Charter mentioned nothing as such. Hence, this claim is false. 

Full text

Since the onset of the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria, the headlines of most media outlets have been preoccupied with diverse topics that relate to the protest. Even more practical is the center stage that social media has taken in popularizing the protest and its cause. As a result, multiple claims have emerged with conspicuous narratives and inspiring themes about the protest. 

In this regard, a Twitter user,  ilobecky @AkhilePeace  claimed that the Nigerian government is responding to the #EndSARS protest because the United Nations constitution intervenes in any protest that lasts over 30 days.  

The actual tweet of the claimant stated “I just heard according to UN Constitution any protests that reaches 30days will make UN intervene in that country. The Nigeria Govt knows this. Many young people don’t know it. EXCEPT the govt makes visible tangible immediate changes, #EndSARS protests MUST GO ON. Tell others.”  The tweet garnered over 250 retweets, 137 reactions, and 10 comments that ranged from doubts, consent, and disagreement over the tweet. 

This is not true. Intervention comes after a resolution from the Security Council. They can only condemn it or issue a press release about it.” agreed Ayo @stoe1234 who seems to consent with the claimant. Nonetheless,  Icon @Icon_Ayodeji argued that “Falz a supposed lawyer shud know better. UN has no constitution and u cannot intervene in any country without security council resolution.”

Whatever the case may be, such conspicuous claims can attract massive public attention, especially at a time when the condition suits the narrative. Hence, it’s courtesy to this disposition that DUBAWA opts to verify the veracity of this claim. 

Verification

At the preliminary level,  Dubabwa found out that the United Nations has no ‘constitution’ and the closest document that looks like a constitution is the United Nations Charter. However, it is not written anywhere in the Charter that the UN can intervene in a country on account of protests. 

Nonetheless, one core value of the United Nations is ‘sovereignty’ as spelled in Article 2(7) of the Charter. It states that:

‘’Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter, but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.”

In essence,  the United Nations cannot intervene in the domestic jurisdiction of a member state except in the case of an internal war. By interference in the war, it means they can only aid humanitarian assistance in cases of human rights violation and not to affect the outcome of the war.  

A lawyer and expert in international law, Samsudeen Alabi, said the UN cannot intervene except in extreme and rare cases.

The proposition is false in its entirety.  What is going on in Nigeria is an internal conflict. The UN has as one of its guiding principles, the respect for the sanctity of a nation’s territorial integrity and political independence. And so the UN is not authorized by its charter (the document establishing it, sort of its own constitution) to intervene or interfere in the internal conflicts of its member states such as Nigeria. 

“Legally speaking, the UN can only intervene after a very lengthy process has been complied with. And this process can even only be started when the internal conflict threatens “international peace and security”. All that the UN can do for now in the case of Nigeria is to “urge” and “advise” and “exhort” the government not to be violent with its people and to look toward settling its internal conflicts peacefully.”

Also, a recent briefing by Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, on Thursday, 15 October 2020, made clarifications as regards the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria. He stated that “In answer to questions about the ongoing protests in Nigeria, the spokesperson said that the Secretary-General is following the protests in Nigeria calling for the dissolution of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and an end to human rights violations allegedly committed by security agencies. 

The Secretary-General stresses the importance of respect for peaceful protests and freedom of assembly and calls on the security forces to exercise maximum restraint in the policing of the demonstrations.

The Secretary-General welcomes the decision by the Government of Nigeria to disband the Special Anti-robbery Unit and undertake broader police reforms. He expresses the readiness of the United Nations to accompany Nigeria in those efforts.”

Conclusion 

The viral Twitter claim that the United Nations would intervene after 30 days of protest is False. The United Nations does not have the right to interfere in the domestic affairs of any member country according to 2(7) of its charter. The organization can only provide humanitarian assistance in cases of internal wars (civil wars) without any intention to affect the outcome of the war. 

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