October 9, 98
NO CONCESSIONS FOR NIGERIA UNTIL BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS RESTORED
Mixed reaction from human rights group after Commonwealth meeting
The London based Islamic Human Rights Commission welcomes the statements by Commonwealth Secretary-General Chief Emeka Anyakou that Nigeria will not be let back into the Commonwealth until democratic elections and the transition to civilian rule are complete.
However, IHRC is deeply concerned that Commonwealth countries acting on their own, are giving the green light to General Abubakar’s new regime, to continue the human rights abuses it still perpetrates. In particular political prisoners from the Islamic opposition are still incarcerated, despite Abubakar’s claims over two months ago, that all political prisoners have been released. Likewise charges against political opponents and their families have not been dropped. Included in this list is the eighteen month old son of Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic opposition. Al-Zakzaky himself, and three others known as the Zaria Four, are charged with sedition, and have been in prison since September 1996. Al-Zakzaky’s son, Hammed was imprisoned with is mother, five siblings and several other women and children for six weeks earlier this year. Charges against him and the group for insulting various Nigerian authorities remain in place.
In this light, statements attributed to Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy after today’s meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, that he is in awe of General Abubakar’s progress, are of some concern. Clearly Nigeria has a long way to go before it can claim to have made progress on its human rights record. To praise what little action that has been taken to date, belies either a Canadian lack of concern for basic human rights, or a trade or other agenda motivating such statements.
In September alone some 34 people protesting at the continued detention of the Zaria Four and others, were shot and killed by Nigerian police. Until Nigerians have the right to protest restored, and children like Hammed can be safe from imprisonment and criminal prosecution, the international community at every level must continue punitive action against the new Nigerian regime.
IHRC is calling for the release of all political prisoners from whatever ethnic, confessional or political background.
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