Living Person Cannot Seek to Enforce the Rights of the Dead

Federal High Court

A Federal High Court judge in Abuja has held that a living person cannot seek to enforce the rights of the dead.

This was contained in a judgment delivered by Justice John Tsoho in a suit instituted by human rights lawyer, Barrister Hameed Jimoh, on behalf of victims of the bombing of an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Borno.

The suit had the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as respondents.

The court clarified that the only exception to this would be when the living person is able to prove his/her dependence on the dead person and how the death has deprived him of his own right to life.

On January 17, 2017, dozens of people were reportedly killed or injured when an air force jet accidentally bombed a camp in Borno State for those made homeless by Boko Haram insurgents.

Consequently, the applicant asked the court to declare that the right to life of each of the victims of the incident has been breached by the respondents and as such the court should order them to pay N100 million to the family of each of the deceased persons as compensation.

He also asked the court to order that the respondents pay the sum of N50 million to each of the wounded victims of the bombing as compensation for the breach of their fundamental right to life.

Delivering judgment in the suit, Justice Tsoho held that “it is conceded that basically, enforcement of fundamental rights is only available to the living and not dead persons.”

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“A living person cannot seek the enforcement of the rights of a dead person but recent authorities indicate that such a person who is proved to be a dependant of the deceased can initiate his own action on the basis of being deprived of his right to life, which encompasses social, economic and cultural rights,” he held.

He further held that the law recognizes that a dependant of the deceased is entitled to sue for the enforcement of his own fundamental rights as a living person.

The judge however held that in instituting such claims, the applicant must be able to establish kinship with the victims of the alleged violation.

He aligned with the submission of the respondents that the applicant has not shown any relationship with the victims of the bombing in Borno state nor did the applicant name any of the said victims (including children) of the attack.

“Of course, even if he were able to name the victims, he couldn’t hold himself out to be a dependant of the children, as to entitle him to sue for the enforcement of his fundamental right to life on account of losing the deceased as being his benefactor.

“I agree with the respondents that it is not certain as to who the monetary claim of N100million will go to, if awarded. I equally agree that the court cannot award a relief that is at large or to the whole world.

“In this light, I hold with due respect that the applicant, being a total stranger to the victims of the alleged violation, who are deceased, is not entitled to apply to enforce their fundamental rights or his own rights in relation to them,” the judge held.

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