Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Human Rights Watch alleges killings by Nigerian Security Forces

By Ayo okulaja

July 21, 2009 03:22AMT

A United States based Human Rights organisation, Human right Watch has accused the Nigerian security forces of killing civilians in the aftermath of the last violence in Plateau State.

In a statement titled: "Address Discrimination and Other Root Causes of November 2008 Violence in Jos" sent to the Plateau State Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the human rights body urged the Nigerian government to investigate and prosecute members of the security forces responsible for the alleged killing of more than 130 people in November 2008.

In a testimony before the commission set up to address the sectarian violence between Muslim and Christian mobs that left scores of people dead, a witness and HRW Nigerian researcher, Eric Guttschuss recounted scenes of policemen and soldiers killing civilians in their homes, and lining victims up on the ground for execution.

According to the statement released on Monday, the organisation conducted on-the-ground research in Jos after the violence and in February 2009.

"At least 130 men were killed by members of the very institutions charged with protecting them," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The organisation found that while most of the deadly inter-communal clashes took place on November 28, 2008, majority of the killings by the police and the military occurred on November 29, the day that the state governor, Jonah Jang, issued a "shoot-on-sight" directive to the security forces.

The body said it documented about 118 cases of arbitrary killings by security forces that took place between 7am and 1pm on November 29 alone.

According to the release, majority of the killings as documented were allegedly committed by the Nigerian police.

In 15 separate incidents of arbitrary killings by the police, at least 74 men and boys, all but two of them Muslims, were killed.

Majority of the police killings were perpetrated by the anti-riot Police Mobile Force, commonly referred to as the mobile police or MOPOL.

The Human Rights agency also documented eight incidents, involving the alleged arbitrary killing of 59 men by the military.

According to witnesses, all of the victims were Muslim men, most were young, and nearly all were unarmed at the time they were killed.

Human Rights Watch believes the actual number of arbitrary killings by security forces may be substantially higher than these figures.

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry was set up by the Plateau State government to look into the causes of the Jos violence and to identify the individuals or groups responsible.

Nigeria's Federal Government has also established a Presidential Panel of Investigation, which is yet to hold hearings after repeated delays.

The body urged the Federal Government to address the causes of the violence. "The government should consider the sectarian killings in Jos as a wake-up call to address the long standing problems of discrimination and inequality that, in large part, underpin and contribute to this kind of violence," Mr. Dufka said.

The Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives have also convened ad hoc committees to determine the causes of the violence in Jos and the Human Rights Watch has submitted the report of their findings to the committees.

To view Human Rights Watch's submission to the Plateau State Judicial Commission of Inquiry and the other three investigative bodies on the November 2008 violence in Jos, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/node/84015.

To view a slideshow of the aftermath of the November 2008 violence in Jos, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/features/nigeria-arbitrary-killings-security-forces.


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