33 rights groups warn Buhari’s govt over attempts to gag human rights organisations

Posted by News Express | 20 December 2018 | 1,067 times

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•President Buhari

Stakeholders and the human rights community in Nigeria have condemned the several threats and intimidation of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Amnesty International Nigeria by the Nigerian military and security services even as the community raised concerns about the incessant attacks and criticisms of human rights and humanitarian organisations by the Nigerian Government.

A statement issued on Tuesday by the 33 stakeholder-groups in the human rights community said that the rights organisations have become a regular object of attacks by the Nigerian military and security services for doing its work of exposing human rights violations.

“We totally condemn threats and intimidation of UNICEF and Amnesty International Nigeria by the Nigerian military and security services, especially as even the Presidency has joined in the fray. That these threats are always issued against Amnesty International Nigeria whenever it issues a report detailing credible allegations of human rights violations in Nigeria shows that the attacks are aimed at gagging the organisation, undermining credible human rights reporting and covering up systemic violations of human rights.

“What is curious is that all the threats and accusations against Amnesty International Nigeria by the Nigerian military and security services have consistently failed to present any empirical evidence that contradicts the reports issued. It is clear to all objective observers that Amnesty International Nigeria is doing a great job of documenting human rights violations in Nigeria and seeking to bring human rights violators to justice. The Nigerian military and security services should prioritise protecting Nigeria and Nigerians instead of throwing laughable accusations at international organisations providing vital lifesaving services to Nigerians.

“The work of Amnesty International Nigeria should be seen as a guide for the Nigerian government to initiate an investigation of allegations of human rights violations. Throwing denials at allegations of human rights violations raised by Amnesty International Nigeria and other human rights and humanitarian agencies only puts the Nigerian military and security services into global ridicule,” the statement said.

“In 2017, the Government established the Presidential Investigation Panel to investigate allegations of non-compliance with human rights obligations and Rules of engagement by the Nigerian Armed Forces in local conflicts and insurgency. This means that the Government is aware that there are credible allegations of human rights violations by the military. The Panel submitted its report in February 2018 but there has been no report or whitepaper based on their findings. Rather than continue to harass Amnesty International Nigeria for investigating and reporting on alleged acts of human rights violations by the military, the President should start by revealing the findings of the Panel he had himself set up.

“Despite the reflex of consistent attacks by the Nigerian government and its security agencies, the gravamen of the allegations by Amnesty International Nigeria has been largely upheld and corroborated by official investigations, including the Justice Biobele Georgewill Presidential Investigation Panel (PIP). It is unfortunate that despite the pattern of serious and systematic human rights violations reported by non-governmental monitors and affirmed by official investigations, the Federal Government has failed for about three years to re-constitute the Governing Councils of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria (LACON) in order to give these bodies full standing capabilities to lead in promoting and protecting human rights in Nigeria. To show its seriousness about addressing the issues that Amnesty International Nigeria revealed in its report(s), Nigeria’s Federal Government should, without further delay, re-constitute the Governing Councils of both the NHRC and LACON and fully fund both institutions to fulfil their mandates,” the statement noted.

“Amnesty International Nigeria is manned by Nigerians. Therefore, the Federal Government and all security agencies including the Nigerian Armed Forces are under constitutional obligation to protect their rights and interests as citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“In addition, the latest attack against Amnesty International Nigeria corroborates the recent report by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that Nigerian authorities tend to deny any allegation of human rights violations by security agencies.  Nigerian civil society stands with Amnesty International Nigeria and we urge the Nigerian government to prioritise protecting the sanctity of the lives of Nigerians,” the statement declared.

The 33 member body that signed the statement are Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD),  Centre for Democratic Research and Training (CRDDERT),  Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre),  Public Interest Lawyers League (PILL), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC),  Partners for West Africa,  Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD),  Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP),  Zero-Corruption Coalition (ZCC) and Accountability Maternal New-born and Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN).

Others are Partners on Electoral Reform, State of the Union (SOTU), African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, National Procurement Watch Platform, Say NO Campaign—Nigeria, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civil Education (CHRICED), Social Action, International Press Centre, WANGONET, Community Action for Popular Participation.

Also included are Borno Coalition for Democracy and Progress (BOCODEP), Global Rights, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE), Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Tax Justice Nigeria, Practice Section on Public Interest and Development Law, Environmental Rights Action (ERA), Women in Nigeria (WIN), African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD) and CLEEN Foundation.

Source: News Express

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