Nigeria: Commonwealth castigated over silence on human rights abuses

The Universal Justice Network has written to the head of the Commonwealth Secretary-General excoriating the organisation for its failure to act on serial human rights abuses in Nigeria.

The Commonwealth member has been the subject of repeated complaints over its killings of supporters of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria from 2015 onwards and the arrest and prosecution of its leader Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky, his wife Zeenah and other members.

However, according to the letter the secretary-general has not raised so much as a whimper “to some of the most egregious abuses of human rights conducted by (President) Buhari and members of his security apparatus”.

This, says the letter, is in stark contrast to the Commonwealth Secretariat’s robust stand during the tenure of President Abacha years.

“We would have expected by now for there to have been public statements, organisational sanctions and indeed mobilisation from the Commonwealth Secretariat on various fronts to ensure the release of Zakzaky et. al, immediate access to medical treatment and the beginnings of restorative justice processes, all directed and facilitated by / through your office as part of transitional packages to a truer civil democratic structure in Nigeria”, states the letter.

Nigerian authorities are currently trying Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife along with two other members of the Islamic Movement on trumped up charges relating to events surrounding the massacre in December 2015 by the Nigerian military of over 1000 followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

They are accused of abetting the commission of culpable homicide by blocking roads in the city of Zaria, an act that the authorities allege led to the death of a government soldier. In reality, the charges are designed to deflect government responsibility for a planned and systematic attack by soldiers which is now the subject of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court.

In late 2016 a federal court ruled Sheikh Zakzaky’s detention and that of his wife Zeenah unlawful and unconstitutional and ordered the government to release them by January 16, 2017 and pay compensation. That order was never implemented and the charges were brought against the couple in 2018.

Notes to editors: IHRC is one of two secretariats that make up the Universal Justice Network, the other being Citizens International.

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