Monday, 10 March 2014

US human rights report criticises both Boko Haram and Nigerian military

Neither the Boko Haram insurgency nor the government itself escaped lightly in the new Country Report on Human Rights practices for 2013 just published by the United States State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour. 

Boko Haram - "which conducted killings, bombings, abduction and rape of women, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction of property" - came in for first criticism. But the report gave over plenty of column inches for the security services, "which perpetrated extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, and destruction of property." 

President Goodluck Jonathan's pardon of former Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of money laundering in 2007, did not escape the attention of the report's authors. Indeed, the report was harshly critical of the small number of prosecutions against police abuse and official corruption. "Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government." The report also condemned the practice of "parading" arrestees: "Bystanders often hurled taunts, food, and other objects. Police defended this practice with the argument that public humiliation helped deter crime." 

It is a common practice. In the past week, reports appeared in the media of the parading of 13 suspected members of the "Supreme Eiye Confraternity", arrested in Lagos. In Cross Rivers State the commander of the NNS Victory arrested and paraded a dozen people who were allegedly transporting contraband worth millions of naira. While the arrests might win plaudits for the authorities, it looks like a clear violation of due process for the arrested persons whose names and photos appear in the media before they have come to trial. 

On a more positive note, the State Department researchers found that there were few reports of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) being used to harass political opponents of the ruling party. "Existing allegations tended to rise and fall with election cycles," the report dryly noted, leaving open the possibility that new accusations will appear as the 2015 elections approach. 

Other events were too recent to appear in the report. It said that "on 17 December a harmonized version of the 'Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill' passed the Senate." That bill, signed into law by President Jonathan in January 2014, triggered fresh round-ups of gays and lesbians and provoked international condemnation. It will be sure to feature more prominently in the 2014 report.

For more news and expert analysis about Nigeria, please see Nigeria Focus and Nigeria Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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