Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

Report
November 5, 1996

Nigeria: Time to end contempt for human rights

8 Order prompt and impartial investigations in accordance with international standards
into all reported human rights violations, bring to justice all those responsible for such violations and compensate the victims

The present military government should commit itself to ending the culture of impunity which has long reigned in Nigeria. An essential precondition is acceptance of the principle of prompt and impartial investigations into all reported human rights violations, whether in the past, the present or the future. It should commit itself to ensuring that investigations take place on the following basis:

* Those appointed to conduct investigations should be persons chosen for their recognized impartiality, competence and independence;

* Those conducting investigations should be empowered to obtain all the information necessary to the inquiry and to summon witnesses and officials allegedly involved in human rights violations to give evidence;

* Action should be taken against any member of the military, police or security forces who refuses to cooperate with investigations;

* Steps should be taken to safeguard complainants, witnesses and investigators against violence, threats of violence or any other form of intimidation;

* The investigative body should issue reports as soon as possible and these should be immediately made public. Reports should give details of the scope of the investigations, should describe in detail what took place in the alleged incident, the evidence on which the findings are based and the procedures used to evaluate evidence. In addition, they should make recommendations on effective, practical measures to bring to justice those responsible and to prevent human rights violations. Those in authority should indicate the steps they intend to take in response;

* The authorities should be given a limited time within which they must respond to each report, indicating what action is being taken to remedy abuses and prevent their recurrence, and should make such responses public.

The Nigerian government should also take the following immediate action:

* It should publish the report of the investigation into the 1990 Umuechem massacre in Rivers State, which has never been made public.

* It should establish independent and impartial investigations into the circumstances of Clement Tusima´s death in detention in August 1995 in Port Harcourt prison; and into all other allegations of torture or ill-treatment of prisoners presently or previously in custody. All reports should be made public.

* It should establish independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of extrajudicial executions by the Nigerian security forces, including in Ogoni, since 1993. All reports should be made public.

* It should establish an independent and impartial inquiry into the murder in June 1996 of Kudirat Abiola, senior wife of the detained politician, Chief Moshood Abiola. Its report should be made public.

Accepting and implementing the principle of prompt and impartial investigations of reported human rights violations is not sufficient on its own to end impunity. This can be achieved only by bringing perpetrators to justice and compensating victims. The present Nigerian government should commit itself to both. Fair compensation should be provided by the government to the victims of all human rights violations or, in the case of those killed or "disappeared", to their immediate relatives, without prejudice to any other criminal or civil proceedings.