President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday advised Nigerian soldiers to keep to the rules of engagement and international code of conduct while carrying out their constitutional duties.
The President was speaking at the annual Chief of Army Staff Conference in Kaduna on Tuesday.
The Nigerian army has been serially accused, by rights groups, of flouting human rights during its operations.
However, on Tuesday, President Buhari commended the army for its work in keeping the country safe from terrorists.
“I urge our soldiers to continue to abide by their ethics and ethos and keep to the rules of engagement and code of conduct while ensuring that human rights and international humanitarian laws are promoted and respected in the conduct of military operations,” the President said.
He then saluted the “army’s courage and gallantry” while noting that its achievements have come with associated costs.
“Many personnel have lost their lives, some have sustained injuries and a significant number have been away from their families for a long time,” he said.
“I, once again, send my condolences to the families of those who have paid the supreme sacrifice in an effort to safeguard the sovereignty of our great nation. May their souls rest in perfect peace.”
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq, has advised law enforcement agents to stop desecrating the judiciary.
Ojukwu made the appeal while reacting to the alleged refusal of officials of the Department of state services to release on bail the social campaigner Sowore after the order of his release by the trial court and his lawyers meeting the bail conditions.
“There is need for the three arms of government to work harmoniously with utmost respect for each other as envisaged under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
According to Ojukwu, many cases have been reported to the commission about investigating police officers and state security officers deliberately refusing or delaying to verify bail conditions following court orders just to punish suspects unduly for reasons that are not constitutional.
He, however, holds the opinion that “the constitution guarantees the innocence of every citizen of Nigeria until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction”.
He further stated that a situation where the order of courts are continuously disobeyed by security agents makes such security agents judges onto themselves and such situation does not augur well for our democracy based on separation of powers and rule of law.
According to him, it makes the law uncertain at any point in time and leads to loss of confidence of the people in government and state institutions of which the judiciary is one.
He, therefore, called for a renewed commitment on the part of law enforcement agents to submit to constituted authority and oversight and release all detainees who have met their bail conditions as ordered by the courts of the land.
“You cannot approbate and reprobate” he said.
On the part of the Commission, “we shall continue to train and sensitize law enforcement agents on the need to respect the law and the constitution which they have sworn to protect so as to engender a culture of respect for human rights in the country”.
The United States on Thursday announced sanctions against Cuba’s former president Raul Castro, accusing him of violations of human rights.
In his continued role in the communist party, “Raul Castro oversees a system that arbitrarily detains thousands of Cubans and currently holds more than 100 political prisoners,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The United States said Thursday it would bar the entry of Chechnya’s prime minister for allegedly orchestrating human rights violations in the Russian republic.
Under a US law that requires action against foreign officials over human rights concerns, the United States announced that Chairman Muslim Khuchiyev and his immediate family will be ineligible for US visas if they apply.
The State Department said in a statement that it had “credible information that Muslim Khuchiyev was involved in torture.”
Chechnya’s pro-Moscow authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov last year elevated Khuchiyev, previously the mayor of the Chechen capital Grozny which was reduced to rubble when Russia crushed two separatist wars that left tens of thousands dead.
While the Muslim-majority republic has largely been pacified, Chechen authorities have still engaged in unlawful arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings, according to a report last year by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
The public designation comes amid a slew of rifts between Russia and the United States, which has pressed President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s support for separatists in Ukraine and alleged interference in US elections.
Global human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has raised concern over the inability of the Nigerian government to hold those involved in human rights violation accountable.
In a statement by the Media Manager of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, the group decried what it described as pervasive violence against women.
According to the statement, these include purported rape of women and girls at various Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps, as well as sexual violence against female detainees by security operatives, sometimes in order to extract confessions.
The group said it was worried that the violations have continued, despite the passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act by the National Assembly in 2015.
“While welcoming Nigeria’s acceptance of recommendations to intensify efforts to combat gender-based violence, the organisation urges the government to ensure that victims throughout the Federation can seek legal redress for gender-based violations, in line with the provisions of the VAPP,” it said.
“Since the beginning of the armed conflict in northeast Nigeria in 2009, Amnesty International has documented war crimes and other human rights abuses by Boko Haram and serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the security forces, including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions,” it stated further.
It, however, frowned on the lack of accountability for crimes committed by Boko Haram, as well as by government forces in the fight against the insurgents, and called on the government to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice in fair trials.
The organisation noted that several states had called on the Federal Government to strengthen the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
In order to promote these rights, it disclosed that it recently launched a campaign on freedom of expression in Nigeria.
Amnesty International explained that this was a platform to call on the government to ensure that journalists and other media professionals could operate without fear of arrests or other reprisals.
Noting that the Human Rights Council has adopted a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcome on Nigeria, the group commended the nation’s cooperation with the review process and its positive response to some of the recommendations made by other states in the UPR Working Group.
The United States on Friday urged Tanzania to safeguard the rights of journalists and civil society, voicing concern over a growing crackdown on media, activists and the gay community.
Two press freedom advocates were taken in for questioning and released Thursday, while a powerful Dar es Salaam official last week vowed to track down people suspected of engaging in homosexuality — illegal in Tanzania.
“The United States government is deeply concerned over escalating attacks and legislative actions by the Government of Tanzania that violate civil liberties and human rights, creating an atmosphere of violence, intimidation and discrimination,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“The deteriorating state of human rights and rule of law in Tanzania inhibits development, economic prosperity, peace and security,” she said.
“We call on Tanzanian authorities to act decisively to safeguard the rights of civil society organizations, human rights defenders, journalists, health workers, political activists and all people,” in accordance with local and international law, she said.
She added that the United States was “troubled” by arrests and harassment of the LGBT community.
The United States has had warm relations with Tanzania, which has received aid under the Millennium Challenge Corporation which is only eligible to countries that respect democratic norms.
Former president Jimmy Carter has warned that the United States has “abandoned” its standing as the premier champion of human rights, showing “indifference” to abuse at home and abroad.
“The United States has already lost its place as a leader of protecting people and their human rights,” the Democratic ex-president told a Human Rights Defenders Forum on Tuesday at the Carter Center in Atlanta.
“We still have a chance to restore our position as the foremost champion of human rights, but we are not in that position at this moment,” said Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting human rights, democracy and development.
“If we retain our present position of indifference to human rights violations, we’ll encourage” such violations to grow even more rapidly than they have in recent years, he stressed.
The 93-year-old Carter, who was speaking to dozens of human rights experts from around the world, noted that the United States was at the forefront seven decades ago when it led the United Nations to proclaim the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But the US government’s dramatic clampdowns on civil liberties following the September 11 terror attacks in 2001 helped shred American credibility, Carter said.
“So we have abandoned, basically, our position as a government to be the champion of human rights,” added the former president, who made rights concerns a central pillar of his foreign policy during his term in office.
The United States emerged as a superpower not because it has a powerful military or the world’s strongest economy, Carter argued, but “because we espouse things that are important to everyone on Earth — and I think human rights are one of them.”
Current US President Donald Trump has placed little emphasis on human rights, instead often praising, or turning a blind eye to, the words and actions of authoritarian-minded rulers in countries from the Philippines to Russia — even to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The United States Government has released a report, accusing the Nigerian Government of failing to adequately investigate widespread human rights abuses and impunity in the country or punish those responsible for the abuses.
In its Country Report on Human Rights Practices For 2017, the U.S. State Department said although the Federal Government took steps to investigate alleged abuses, it took fewer steps to prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government.
“Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government,” the report said. “The government did not adequately investigate or prosecute most of the major outstanding allegations of human rights violations by the security forces or the majority of cases of police or military extortion or other abuse of power.”
The most significant human rights issues in Nigeria in 2017, according to the report, included extrajudicial and arbitrary killings; disappearances and arbitrary detentions; torture, particularly in detention facilities, including sexual exploitation and abuse; use of children by some security elements, looting, and destruction of property.
Other abuses alleged in the report are civilian detentions in military facilities, often based on flimsy evidence; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement; official corruption; lack of accountability in cases involving violence against women and children, including female genital mutilation/cutting and sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; early and forced marriages, and more.
The State Department alleged that the outcomes of investigations into reports of extrajudicial killings, unlawful detentions and use of excessive force against protesters were not made public neither was anyone held accountable for them.
It said, “Authorities generally did not hold police, military, or other security force personnel accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody.
“State and federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths generally did not make their findings public. In August, the acting president convened a civilian-led presidential investigative panel to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement. As of November, the panel had not issued a report.”
Concerning the war against Boko Haram, the report claimed that allegations of human rights violations against members of the Civilian Joint Task Force were not dealt with decisively.
“The government took limited steps to investigate and punish CJTF members who committed human rights abuses. There were no reports of a criminal investigation into members of the military or armed groups who were previously alleged to have used children in support roles or who continued to do so,” it said.
Another issue the report claimed the Nigerian government failed to tackle decisively is “arbitrary deprivation of life and other unlawful or politically motivated killings”.
It cited the December 2015 clash between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and the Nigerian Army as an example.
According to the report, although the Kaduna State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the matter recommended that the Federal Government should conduct and independent investigation into the matter, it had yet to do so.
“As of November (2017), however, there was no indication that authorities had held any members of the NA accountable for the events in Zaria,” it said.
The Nigerian government has yet to react to the State Department Report, but it had rejected previous reports by Amnesty International accusing the army of rights abuses and alleging widespread corruption within the government.
The report, published on April 20, comes 10 days before President Muhammadu Buhari’s meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington D.C.