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14.10.02
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Nigeria: Hope detained! A report on the human rights situation in Nigeria is blocked at the country’s customs, while its contributors are being harassed

PRESS RELEASE

Geneva, October 14th, 2002



Hope detained! A report on the human rights situation in Nigeria is blocked at the country’s customs, while its contributors are being harassed


The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the world’s largest coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) engaged in the fight against torture, would like to express its deep concern about the fact that copies of a report published by OMCT and Nigerian NGO the Centre for Law Enforcement Education (CLEEN), entitled “Hope betrayed? A Report on Impunity and State-Sponsored Violence in Nigeria,” based on the input of some 60 local NGOs, have been seized by the customs office in Lagos. Furthermore, a researcher and two persons who collaborated in drafting the report are reportedly being subjected to harassment by Security Services agents.

According to the information received, over 2000 copies of the report that were sent by OMCT to CLEEN for distribution in Nigeria have been impounded at the customs office in Lagos, due to alleged political undertones of a subversive nature within the report’s content. The report was launched publicly in Lagos on August 26th, 2002, and OMCT is surprised by the sudden change of mood by the authorities towards this publication and those who participated in producing it.

Two of the co-authors of a chapter on the so-called “Benue Killings” - in which the Nigerian Army massacred a large number of civilians in response to the abduction and killing of soldiers during inter-ethnic clashes between the Tiv and Junkun groups in the Benue Valley – are being harassed by the authorities, who have called upon them to report immediately to the Department of State Security Services (SSS) in Abuja. OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of these two persons, Miss Isioma Ojugbana and Miss Ijeoma Nwachukwu, who are both members of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in Lagos, and fears that they may be arbitrarily detained and risk being subjected to ill-treatment if they present themselves to the SSS.

On Friday October 4th, 2002, CLO’s offices were reportedly visited by a person known only as Mohammed, who invited the afore-mentioned persons to attend the SSS immediately. After his visit, CLO reportedly received phone calls later on the same day and on Tuesday October 8th, demanding that they present themselves unfailingly on October 8th. It is reported that the Director of the SSS has also phoned CLO and ordered them in a threatening manner to immediately come to his offices in Abuja. Miss Isioma Ojugbana and Miss Ijeoma Nwachukwu have asked for an official request to be submitted to them in writing, including the reasons for which they are being invited, in compliance with standard procedures, rather than the oral demands that they have received so far, at which time they would comply with the request. They still await this official written request and are currently living in fear.

Furthermore, it has been reported that Idris Bawa, one of the researchers for the National Human Rights Commission, has been invited to the SSS and questioned in relation with this affair.

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned by the fact that the authorities are attempting to block the dissemination of this report, which represents an important milestone in the collaboration of Nigerian NGOs and the monitoring of the human rights situation in the country, and calls upon them to immediately enable these reports to be delivered to their intended destination. OMCT is also gravely concerned about the SSS’ use of threats and harassment against members of civil society and fears that such behaviour may augur a departure from recent improvements in Nigeria towards a time in which civil society once again becomes the target of repression, in violation of the rights to the freedoms of association, opinion and speech. OMCT calls upon the Nigerian authorities to immediately halt all forms of repression, threats and harassment against the persons who took part in the production of this report and, more generally, civil society as a whole.



Contact: Michael Anthony, Tel: 00 41 22 809 49 39, e-mail: omct@omct.org
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