Outrage: U.N. elects Nigeria to top rights body, despite massacres, torture and forced evictions

Nigeria should not have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, as it fails to meet the basic membership criteria. See full UN Watch report on candidates here.

Nigeria’s Human Rights Record
Nigeria commits serious human rights violations, including:

  • Extrajudicial killings
  • Disappearances
  • Torture
  • Rape
  • Arbitrary detention
  • Mistreatment of detainees
  • Looting
  • Destruction of property
  • Forced evictions
  • Vigilante killings
  • Denial of fair public trial
  • Executive influence on judiciary
  • Restrictions on freedom of speech
  • Restrictions on freedom of the press
  • Restrictions on freedom of assembly
  • Restrictions on freedom of movement
  • Official corruption
  • Violence against women and children
  • Trafficking in persons
  • Early and forced marriages
  • LGBT discrimination
  • Discrimination based on ethnic and religious grounds
  • Forced labor
  • Child labor

Nigeria experienced its first successful democratic transfer of power in 2015 with the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. Despite this positive step, the government continues to be plagued by corruption at all levels.[1] According to Human Rights Watch, official corruption directly affects the basic rights of Nigerians, more than half of whom live in poverty. One third of school-age children are out of school and one in five children under age five die from treatable, preventable diseases.[2]
While Nigeria has enacted legislation protecting freedom of the press, journalists often face intimidation, harassment and physical attacks both from militias and the police, especially if they are critical of the government or politicians.[3] Reporters Without Borders’ recorded a decline in freedom of the press in Nigeria over the last year. There were at least four separate incidents of government intimidation and harassment of journalists in the first four months of 2017.[4]
Since 2009, Nigeria has been battling a violent insurgency by Boko Haram, a jihadi terrorist group responsible for grave human rights abuses in the northeast of the country. While the government has made progress against the group, Boko Haram continues to terrorize parts of Nigeria.[5]
Government military and security forces also are responsible for numerous human rights violations in the fight against Boko Haram. In June 2016, the Nigerian military massacred more than 80 men in a small farming village in Marte and burned down the village, even though none of the men were identified by villagers as being affiliated with Boko Haram. Witnesses in displaced persons’ camps reported many similar cases of abuse by the military in its search for Boko Haram sympathizers. [6] The military also arbitrarily detained thousands of young men on the basis of random profiling without reasonable suspicion of involvement in Boko Haram activity. This led to overcrowding in prisons with poor sanitary conditions, and resulted in the deaths of more than 240 detainees.[7]
The Nigerian military and police also employ excessive force against other groups, such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN). The military killed at least nine IPOB protesters in February 2016. According to Amnesty International, at least 150 IPOB members had been killed between August 2015 and September 2016 with hundreds more arbitrarily arrested. In August 2016, armed men in a government vehicle shot and disappeared IBOP activist Sunday Chucks.[8]
A government judicial commission published in July 2016 found that the military used excessive force in an altercation with the Shia IMN in December 2015 in which 347 IMN members were killed and buried in a mass grave, and in which the government destroyed IMN religious sites and property. IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife continue to be detained without charge even though a federal court has declared the detention unconstitutional and ordered their unconditional release.[9]
Torture and mistreatment of suspects by Nigerian security forces is common. In May 2016, a burglary suspect died after two weeks in custody.[10] Another suspect was beaten with machetes and heavy sticks and released after he paid an $81 fine. Security services also subject women and girls to rape and other forms of violence, with impunity.[11]
The government has carried out forced evictions against many Nigerians without affording them adequate legal protections or alternative housing.[12] Between November 2016 and April 2017, the government forcibly evicted at least 35,000 people in fishing settlements in Lagos, leaving them homeless and without livelihood.[13] The evictions proceeded despite a January 2017 court order that they be halted.[14]
Women and LGBT are also at risk in Nigeria where female genital mutilation continues to be widely practiced and homosexuality can be punished with 14-year prison terms.[15]
U.N. Voting Record
Negative: At the General Assembly, Nigeria backed human rights abusers through a resolution denying the right to sanction such regimes, by voting to delay the work of the Special Rapporteur on violence against LGBT and by voting against a resolution to protect human rights defenders. Nigeria abstained on resolutions that spoke out for human rights victims in Iran, Syria and North Korea. At the Human Rights Council, Nigeria voted against resolutions to protect gays and people with disabilities. Nigeria voted against a resolution that spoke out for human rights victims in Belarus. It also voted against a resolution to allow the High Commissioner to choose his own staff.
[1] “Nigeria 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. State Department, 2017, pp. 1, 26, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265288.
[2] Human Rights Watch, World Report 2017, Nigeria country chapter, available at https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/nigeria.
[3] Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2016, Nigeria, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2016/nigeria.
[4] “Nigeria’s Press Freedom Record Worsens in One Year, Reports, Sahara Reporters, April 26, 2017, available at http://saharareporters.com/2017/04/26/nigeria%E2%80%99s-press-freedom-record-worsens-one-year-reports.
[5] Id.; Nigeria 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. State Department, 2017, p. 2, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265288.
[6] Dionne Searcey, “’They Told Us They Were Here to Help Us.’ Then Came Slaughter,” New York Times, Feb. 28, 2017, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/world/africa/nigeria-civilian-massacre.html?mcubz=0.
[7] Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Nigeria, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/nigeria/report-nigeria/.
[8] “Nigeria 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. State Department, 2017, pp. 3-4, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265288.
[9] Id.
[10] Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Nigeria, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/nigeria/report-nigeria/.
[11] “Nigeria 2016 Human Rights Report,” U.S. State Department, 2017, p. 5, available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2016&dlid=265288.
[12] Id. p. 15; Amnesty International 2016/2017 Report, Nigeria, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/nigeria/report-nigeria/.
[13] Ijeoma Joy Ike and Andrew Esiebo, “’They came while we were asleep’: Lagos residents tell of brutal evictions,” The Guardian, May 31, 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/may/31/destroyed-community-lagos-nigeria-residents-forced-evictions-demolitions.
[14] Remi Adekoya, “Lagos slums are being razed to make way for luxury properties. That’s Nigeria,” The Guardian, April 14, 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/14/lagos-slums-razed-luxury-nigeria-poor-ruling-class.
[15] Claire Daly and Mary Carson, “Nigeria: 20 million women and girls have undergone FGM,” The Guardian, Oct. 11, 2016, available at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/11/fgm-nigeria-20-million-women-and-girls-undergone-female-genital-mutilation; Rachel Banning-Lover, “Where are the most difficult places in the world to be gay or transgender,” The Guardian, March 1, 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/mar/01/where-are-the-most-difficult-places-in-the-world-to-be-gay-or-transgender-lgbt.

UN Watch

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