Update Alert: Nigeria – State-sponsored Sokoto atrocities appearing to repeat in Zaria

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January saw Zaria rocked with violence after a sectarian provocation. The events greatly echo the sectarian provocation and violence which previously occurred in Sokoto.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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06 April 2009

Update Alert: Nigeria – State-sponsored Sokoto atrocities appearing to repeat in Zaria

Contents
1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letters
5. Addresses for sample letters


1. Summary

In January 2009, the northern Nigerian city of Zaria, Kaduna State, was rocked with violence, destruction and killings after a suspicious sectarian provocation. Worrying, the events in Zaria, a city in which many of Sokoto's recent expellees found refuge, greatly echo the sectarian provocation and violence which had previously occurred in Sokoto, and which led to the expulsion and detention of large numbers of the Sokoto's minority religious community.


2. Background

On 6 January 2009, while members of the Muslim Brotherhood were commemorating Ashura with a procession through the streets of Zaria, the convoy of Alhaji Shehu Idris, the emir of Zazzau, was attacked with stones. Though both members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Zazzau emirate council denied any Shia involvement in the attack, nevertheless several so-called 'retaliatory attacks' were directed toward members of the Shia community in which five people were reportedly killed and over 100 injured. Additionally, the homes of several members of the Shia community were looted and set ablaze, as were a primary and secondary school affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. IHRC also received worrying reports of some local residents who suspected the involvement of the Zaria local government in the torching, as some had allegedly been witnessed prior to the event removing uniforms and changing into civilians clothes.

These recent events starkly resemble the violence in Sokoto which had previously been the subject of IHRC campaign work. Sokoto appears to be repeating itself in Zaria, as the atrocities in Sokoto had also been initiated by a seemingly sectarian attack or provocation, and resulted in an immeasurable onslaught on a minority community. Likewise, it was Sokoto's state and local government which collectively punished the local Shia community for the assassination Umaru Danmaishiyya. This included the destruction of the clinic, Islamic centre and school associated with the Shia community, the displacing of thousands, including 1500 children, the torching and razing scores of homes, several murders and collective arrests and sentencing. Also, on 27 May 2008, 113 members of the Islamic Movement in Sokoto were sentenced in a kangaroo court void of any lawyers to 11 years in prison. In months to follow, the prisoners were then transferred from Sokoto to 14 different prisons throughout southern Nigeria, in what was seen to be a deliberate attempt to impede current appeal cases.

For further background information, please refer previous alerts below:

04 June 2008
URGENT ALERT UPDATE: NIGERIA – 113 Sokoto detainees each sentenced 11 years
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=3404

26 October 2007
Alert Update: Prolonged Violence and Detention of Shia minority in Nigeria
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=2977

20 August 2007
Alert: Nigerian security forces crackdown on Islamic Movement in Sokoto
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=2892


3. Action required

Write to the following authorities requesting them to urge the Nigerian government to investigate state and local government involvement in the aforementioned provocations of sectarian violence and collective punishment on a religious minority community. It is preferable that letters be sent via post, or otherwise by fax and/or email.

a) Minister of foreign affairs in your country. UK campaigners will find the appropriate address, fax and email on the sample letter below, and those in the US, Canada and Australia can use that which is provided toward the end of the alert.

b) Nigerian ambassador in your country. UK campaigners will find the appropriate address, fax and email on the sample letter below, and those in the US, Canada and Australia can use that which is provided toward the end of the alert.

c) Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. The appropriate address, fax and email have been provided in the relevant sample letter below.

d) UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. The appropriate address, fax and email have been provided in the relevant sample letter below.


4. Sample letters
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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.

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a) Minister of foreign affairs in your country. (UK campaigners can write using the address supplied below, fax: +44 (0)20 7839 2417 or email: private.office@fco.gov.uk)

[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH, UK

Dear Mr Miliband,

Re: Sokoto's sectarian persecution and violence may be repeating in Zaria

I am deeply concerned over the recent killings, violence and destruction in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria, Kaduna State. Also following a suspicious sectarian attack, the events seem to mirror the state-sponsored atrocities seen in Sokoto, which saw Sokoto's minority religious community collectively punished.

As you are likely aware, on 6 January 2009, the convoy of Zazzau Emir Alhaji Shehu Idris was attacked with stones during an Ashura procession in Zaria. This was followed by suspicious 'retaliatory attacks' waged on Shia community members, reportedly killing 5 people and injuring more than 100. Nevertheless, the Zazzau emirate council and Muslim Brotherhood denied any Shia involvement in the attack. The attacks involved the looting and burning of several homes of Shia community members, in addition to a primary and secondary school run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Further, local residents reportedly witnessed that some of those involved in the arson had changed from uniforms into civilian clothes prior to the event.

I am very worried over the similarity of these attacks with violence previously seen in nearby Sokoto. I do not need to mention Sokoto's state and local government collectively punishing the local Shia community, immediately following a suspicious sectarian provocation involving the assassination Umaru Danmaishiyya. Following the assassination, local authorities demolished the community's Islamic centre, school and clinic, and torched and razed numerous homes owned by Shias. Further, 1500 children included thousands who were subsequently displaced, in addition to many people being murdered and mutilated.

In spite of none of the detainees being charged with the cleric's murder, the assassination was immediately followed, nevertheless, by over 100 Shias being collectively arrested and detained. On May 27th 2008, these 113 detainees were sentenced to 11 years in prison, and with no lawyers having been present, it is quite apparent that this trial could not have met the most minimum of international standards. To make matters worse, those convicted were subsequently scattered throughout southern Nigeria as they were transferred to 14 different prisons, creating a real obstacle for ongoing appeals cases. I expect that such a large-scale instance of collective arbitrary detention would be of urgent concern to you given UN reports confirming Nigeria's horrendous prison conditions, including rampant and systematic torture.

Please call on your Nigerian counterparts to investigate state and local government involvement in the aforementioned provocations of sectarian violence in northern Nigeria and subsequent collective punishment of the Shia community of Zaria and Sokoto. This includes the Zaria incident on 6 January 2009, the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya in Sokoto, and the subsequent violence and deaths occurring in both locales. Likewise, adequate compensation should be afforded to all those whom had their homes destroyed and were otherwise expelled. Lastly, the 113 Shia detainees tried in Sokoto should be immediately and unconditionally released, based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial.

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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b) Nigerian ambassador in your country (UK campaigners can write using the address supplied below, fax: +44 (0)20 7839 8746 or email: information@nigeriahc.org.uk)

[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]

HE Mr D C B Nwanna
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London, WC2N 5BX, UK

Your Excellency,

Re: Sokoto's sectarian persecution and violence may be repeating in Zaria

I am deeply concerned over the recent killings, violence and destruction in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria, Kaduna State. Also following a suspicious sectarian attack, the events seem to mirror the state-sponsored atrocities seen in Sokoto, which saw Sokoto's minority religious community collectively punished.

As you are likely aware, on 6 January 2009, the convoy of Zazzau Emir Alhaji Shehu Idris was attacked with stones during an Ashura procession in Zaria. This was followed by suspicious 'retaliatory attacks' waged on Shia community members, reportedly killing 5 people and injuring more than 100. Nevertheless, the Zazzau emirate council and Muslim Brotherhood denied any Shia involvement in the attack. The attacks involved the looting and burning of several homes of Shia community members, in addition to a primary and secondary school run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Further, local residents reportedly witnessed that some of those involved in the arson had changed from uniforms into civilian clothes prior to the event.

I am very worried over the similarity of these attacks with violence previously seen in nearby Sokoto. I do not need to mention Sokoto's state and local government collectively punishing the local Shia community, immediately following a suspicious sectarian provocation involving the assassination Umaru Danmaishiyya. Following the assassination, local authorities demolished the community's Islamic centre, school and clinic, and torched and razed numerous homes owned by Shias. Further, 1500 children included thousands who were subsequently displaced, in addition to many people being murdered and mutilated.

In spite of none of the detainees being charged with the cleric's murder, the assassination was immediately followed, nevertheless, by over 100 Shias being collectively arrested and detained. On May 27th 2008, these 113 detainees were sentenced to 11 years in prison, and with no lawyers having been present, it is quite apparent that this trial could not have met the most minimum of international standards. To make matters worse, those convicted were subsequently scattered throughout southern Nigeria as they were transferred to 14 different prisons, creating a real obstacle for ongoing appeals cases. Such a large-scale instance of collective arbitrary detention is of urgent concern given UN reports confirming Nigeria's horrendous prison conditions, including rampant and systematic torture.

Please call on your government to investigate state and local government involvement in the aforementioned provocations of sectarian violence in northern Nigeria and subsequent collective punishment of the Shia community of Zaria and Sokoto. This includes the Zaria incident on 6 January 2009, the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya in Sokoto, and the subsequent violence and deaths occurring in both locales. Likewise, adequate compensation should be afforded to all those whom had their homes destroyed and were otherwise expelled. Lastly, the 113 Shia detainees tried in Sokoto should be immediately and unconditionally released, based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial.

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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c) Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations (campaigners can write using the address supplied below, fax: +44 (0)20 7930 0827 or email: secretary-general@commonwealth.int)

[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]

Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
Commonwealth Secretariat
Marlborough House, Pall Mall
London, SW1Y 5HX, UK

Dear Mr Sharma,

Re: Sokoto's sectarian persecution and violence may be repeating in Zaria

I am deeply concerned over the recent killings, violence and destruction in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria, Kaduna State. Also following a suspicious sectarian attack, the events seem to mirror the state-sponsored atrocities seen in Sokoto, which saw Sokoto's minority religious community collectively punished.

As you are likely aware, on 6 January 2009, the convoy of Zazzau Emir Alhaji Shehu Idris was attacked with stones during an Ashura procession in Zaria. This was followed by suspicious 'retaliatory attacks' waged on Shia community members, reportedly killing 5 people and injuring more than 100. Nevertheless, the Zazzau emirate council and Muslim Brotherhood denied any Shia involvement in the attack. The attacks involved the looting and burning of several homes of Shia community members, in addition to a primary and secondary school run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Further, local residents reportedly witnessed that some of those involved in the arson had changed from uniforms into civilian clothes prior to the event.

I am very worried over the similarity of these attacks with violence previously seen in nearby Sokoto. The state and local government's collective punishment on Sokoto's Shia community, had been immediately been immediately preceded by a suspicious sectarian provocation involving the assassination Umaru Danmaishiyya. Following the assassination, local authorities demolished the community's Islamic centre, school and clinic, and torched and razed numerous homes owned by Shias. Further, 1500 children included thousands who were subsequently displaced, in addition to many people being murdered and mutilated.

In spite of none of the detainees being charged with the cleric's murder, the assassination was immediately followed, nevertheless, by over 100 Shias being collectively arrested and detained. On May 27th 2008, these 113 detainees were sentenced to 11 years in prison, and with no lawyers having been present, it is quite apparent that this trial could not have met the most minimum of international standards. To make matters worse, those convicted were subsequently scattered throughout southern Nigeria as they were transferred to 14 different prisons, creating a real obstacle for ongoing appeals cases. I expect that such a large-scale instance of collective arbitrary detention would be of urgent concern to you given UN reports confirming Nigeria's horrendous prison conditions, including rampant and systematic torture.

Please call on the Nigerian government to investigate state and local government involvement in the aforementioned provocations of sectarian violence in northern Nigeria and subsequent collective punishment of the Shia community of Zaria and Sokoto. This includes the Zaria incident on 6 January 2009, the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya in Sokoto, and the subsequent violence and deaths occurring in both locales. Likewise, adequate compensation should be afforded to all those whom had their homes destroyed and were otherwise expelled. Lastly, the 113 Shia detainees tried in Sokoto should be immediately and unconditionally released, based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial.

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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d) UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (campaigners can write using the address supplied below, fax: +92 42 576-3236 or email: aghs@brain.net.pk)

[Your name]
[Your address]

[Date]

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Dr Asma Jahangir
131-E/1
Gulberg-III
Lahore
Pakistan

Dear Ms Jahangir,

Re: Sokoto's sectarian persecution and violence may be repeating in Zaria

I am deeply concerned over the recent killings, violence and destruction in the northern Nigerian city of Zaria, Kaduna State. Also following a suspicious sectarian attack, the events seem to mirror the state-sponsored atrocities seen in Sokoto, which saw Sokoto's minority religious community collectively punished.

As you are likely aware, on 6 January 2009, the convoy of Zazzau Emir Alhaji Shehu Idris was attacked with stones during an Ashura procession in Zaria. This was followed by suspicious 'retaliatory attacks' waged on Shia community members, reportedly killing 5 people and injuring more than 100. Nevertheless, the Zazzau emirate council and Muslim Brotherhood denied any Shia involvement in the attack. The attacks involved the looting and burning of several homes of Shia community members, in addition to a primary and secondary school run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Further, local residents reportedly witnessed that some of those involved in the arson had changed from uniforms into civilian clothes prior to the event.

I am very worried over the similarity of these attacks with violence previously seen in nearby Sokoto. The state and local government's collective punishment on Sokoto's Shia community, had been immediately been immediately preceded by a suspicious sectarian provocation involving the assassination Umaru Danmaishiyya. Following the assassination, local authorities demolished the community's Islamic centre, school and clinic, and torched and razed numerous homes owned by Shias. Further, 1500 children included thousands who were subsequently displaced, in addition to many people being murdered and mutilated.

In spite of none of the detainees being charged with the cleric's murder, the assassination was immediately followed, nevertheless, by over 100 Shias being collectively arrested and detained. On May 27th 2008, these 113 detainees were sentenced to 11 years in prison, and with no lawyers having been present, it is quite apparent that this trial could not have met the most minimum of international standards. To make matters worse, those convicted were subsequently scattered throughout southern Nigeria as they were transferred to 14 different prisons, creating a real obstacle for ongoing appeals cases. I expect that such a large-scale instance of collective arbitrary detention would be of urgent concern to you given UN reports confirming Nigeria's horrendous prison conditions, including rampant and systematic torture.

Please call on the Nigerian government to investigate state and local government involvement in the aforementioned provocations of sectarian violence in northern Nigeria and subsequent collective punishment of the Shia community of Zaria and Sokoto. This includes the Zaria incident on 6 January 2009, the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya in Sokoto, and the subsequent violence and deaths occurring in both locales. Likewise, adequate compensation should be afforded to all those whom had their homes destroyed and were otherwise expelled. Lastly, the 113 Shia detainees tried in Sokoto should be immediately and unconditionally released, based on the local authorities' manifest failure to provide them with a fair trial.

I look forward to hearing back from regarding these urgent matters.

Yours sincerely,


[Your signature]
[Your name]

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5. Addresses for sample letters

a) Ministers of foreign affairs in the US, Canada and Australia.

American campaigners can write to:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520, USA


Canadian campaigners can write to:

Minister of Foreign Affairs - Lawrence Cannon
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0G2, Canada


Australian campaigners can write to:

Minister for Foreign Affairs - The Hon Stephen Smith MP
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600, Australia

Fax: +61 (02) 6273 4112
Email: Stephen.Smith.MP@aph.gov.au

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b) Nigerian ambassadors in the US, Canada and Australia.

American campaigners can write to:

HE Brig. Gen. Oluwole Rotimi
Chief of Mission
Embassy of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008, USA

Fax: (202) 362-6541
Email: http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/contact.shtml


Canadian campaigners can write to:

HE Mrs. Ifeoma Jacinte AKABOGU-CHINWUBA (M)
Minister & Acting High Commissioner
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
295 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 1R9, Canada

Fax: (613) 236-0529
Email: chancery@nigeriahcottawa.com


Australian campaigners can write to:

HE Prof. S Olu AGBI
High Commissioner for Nigeria
PO Box 241
Civic Square ACT 2608, Australia

Fax: (02) 6282 8471
Email : chancery@nigeria-can.org.au

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For more information, please contact the office on the numbers or email below.

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Holy Qur'an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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