Amnesty International warns Nigeria over rise in pre-election violence

Amnesty International has urged the Nigerian authorities to act to stem a rising tide of political, ethnic and religious violence that is threatening the stability of April elections.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Amnesty International said that so far, more than 50 people have also been killed since July 2010 in violence directly related to elections.

According to the statement, Human rights defenders, who will play a key role in monitoring the April election, are facing increased threats and violence with no adequate protection from the security forces.

Amnesty International urged political parties and candidates to put justice, security and human rights at the heart of the election campaign, in order to break Nigeria’s nationwide cycle of violence.

Impunity

The human rights group said Nigerian authorities have failed to bring suspected perpetrators to justice, or to prevent further human rights abuses. Investigations are infrequent and often inadequate.  Hardly anyone has been convicted for the killings.

“The Nigerian authorities must act to protect people’s lives and all political candidates should denounce violence and tell their supporters to campaign peacefully” Tawanda Hondora Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Africa said.

“Candidates should tell voters what they will do to stop the senseless killings and improve security and justice in Nigeria. The Presidential Debate on Friday 18 March is an excellent opportunity to make such a commitment,” he added.

The statement added that despite these deaths, there have been no national campaigns against election violence, and very few arrests.

Mr. Hondora warned that “When no-one is brought to justice for violence, this sends the message that you can get away with murder.”

Poor investigation

“The authorities have also failed to competently prosecute those responsible for the Jos and Plateau State violence, and the results of previous government investigations into reasons behind the violence have never been made public.

“The security forces have reacted with wide ranging abuses such as enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution, and sweeping arbitrary detention,” Amnesty International added.

In Borno state,  where Boko Haram has been blamed for attacks on security forces, government officials and religious leaders a local resident told Amnesty International that “After the killings [by Boko Haram]… they come and arrest all those people around [the area]… Now, if an incident happened in an area you will see most of the neighbours packing out of the area.”

“We were taken to SARS [Special Anti-Robbery Squad], Abuja.  It’s known as the abattoir… we were not alive.  We had no food, no water… One cell held about 45 of us… There were five small children there too,” another resident described his detention as a Boko Haram suspect to Amnesty international.

The human rights group is of the view that poor police investigation is undermining efforts to bring suspected perpetrators to justice.

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