Publication of an international fact-finding mission report on the situation of human rights defenders in Nigeria


Geneva-Dublin-Paris, May 11, 2010. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and Front Line publish today a report entitled “NIGERIA: Defending Human Rights: Not Everywhere, Not Every Right”.

The report, which was presented on May 9 during the NGO Forum that precedes the 47th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia, is the result of an international fact-finding mission that was carried out by the Observatory and Front Line to Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, from November 7 to 12, 2008.

The report shows that since the end of the military rule in 1999, the human rights situation in Nigeria has improved significantly. This has resulted in a more favourable environment for human rights activities and many human rights defenders feel they can now work relatively freely.

However, this is particularly true for mainstream organisations working in major cities. Indeed, human rights defenders working in certain regions of the country - in particular in the Niger Delta and in the northern part of the country - or on certain human rights issues such as corruption, good governance, impunity, gender and women’s rights as well as on discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, continue to face retaliation for documenting and denouncing abuses.

Furthermore, the legislative framework remains insufficient to ensure adequate protection to the work of human rights defenders. The Government seems to be willing to reinforce domestic human rights mechanisms by, for example, introducing human rights desks in some police stations. However, it has at the same time undermined the independence and effectiveness of its National Human Rights Commission. The Government has also failed to amend existing legislation and pass new legislation that would facilitate the work of human rights defenders, including in particular a law guaranteeing access to information.

In view of the information provided in the report, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Front Line recommend to the authorities of Nigeria:

 to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Nigeria;

 to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them;

 to create measures to protect women and LGBT rights defenders, including through public awareness raising campaign;

 to identify all public agents who have been implicated in the violations of human rights defenders’ rights, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply to them the penal sanctions provided by the law;

 to comply with the Nigerian Constitution and the international and regional instruments ratified by Nigeria as well as with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998;

 to issue a standing invitation to the Special Rapporteurs of the ACHPR and of the UN on the situation of human rights defenders so that they visit the country.

The mission report also includes recommendations to the ACHPR and the African Union, the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and to the EU Member-States and the European Commission.

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