State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration which usually suspends a few normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviors, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending rights and freedoms, even if guaranteed under the constitution. Such declarations usually come during a time of natural or man made disaster, during periods of civil unrest, or following a declaration of war or situation of international or internal armed conflict. Justitium is its equivalent in Roman law.
In some countries, the state of emergency and its effects on human rights and freedoms and governmental procedure are regulated by the constitution and/or a law that limits the powers that may be invoked. Rights and freedoms may be suspended during an emergency, for instance, freedom of movement, but not non-derogable rights. In many countries it is illegal to modify the emergency law or the constitution during the emergency.
Use and viewpoints
Though fairly uncommon in democracies, dictatorial regimes often declare a state of emergency that is prolonged indefinitely for the life of the regime, or for extended periods of time so that derogations can be used to override human rights of their citizens usually protected by the International Covenant on Civil and political rights. See (Judson, 2012, “Where is R2P grounded in international law”.) http://otago.ourarchive.ac.nz/handle/10523/2279. In some situations, martial law is also declared, allowing the military greater authority to act. In other situations, emergency is not declared and de facto measures taken or decree-law adopted by the government. Ms. Nicole Questiaux (France) and Mr. Leandro Despouy (Argentina), two consecutive United Nations Special Rapporteurs have recommended to the international community to adopt the following “principles” to be observed during a state or de facto situation of emergency : Principles of Legality, Proclamation, Notification, Time Limitation, Exceptional Threat, Proportionality, Non-Discrimination, Compatibility, Concordance and Complementarity of the Various Norms of International Law . (cf: “Question of Human Rights and State of Emergency”, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/19, at Chapter II; see also (French) état d’exception )
Article 4 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), permits states to derogate from certain rights guaranteed by the ICCPR in “time of public emergency”. Any measures derogating from obligations under the Covenant, however, must only be to the extent required by the exigencies of the situation, and must be announced by the State Party to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The European and American Conventions on Human Rights have similar derogatory provisions. No derogation is permitted to the International Labour Conventions.
Some political theorists, such as Carl Schmitt, have argued that the power to decide the initiation of the state of emergency defines sovereignty itself. In State of Exception (2005), Giorgio Agamben criticized this idea, arguing that the mechanism of the state of emergency deprives certain people of their civil and political rights, producing his interpretation of homo sacer.
The state of emergency can be abused by being invoked, for example, to allow a state to suppress internal opposition without having to respect human rights. An example was the August 1991 attempted coup in the Soviet Union (USSR) where the coup leaders invoked a state of emergency; the failure of the coup led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Derogations by states having ratified or acceeded to binding international agreements such as the ICCPR, the American and European Conventions on Human Rights and the International Labour Conventions are monitored by independent expert committees, regional Courts and other State Parties.
In Nigeria, a state of emergency is usually declared in times of great civil unrest. In recent years, it has specifically been implemented in reaction to terrorist attacks on Nigerians by the Islamic jihadist group Boko Haram.
On 14 May 2013, Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency for the entire northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. A more limited state of emergency had been declared on 31 December 2011 in parts of Yobe, Borno, Plateau and Niger states. This earlier declaration included the temporary shutdown of the international borders in those regions.
I dedicate this article to the peace loving civilians in the three affected states who will definetly feel the brunt of the Nigerian military. Americans will say God bless their country, but I will say, God help Nigeria!