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Category Archives: Monitoring and Documentation of Human Rights Violation

Lawyers Alert sensitize Journalists on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights

The training was organized by Lawyers Alert for journalists as part of a sensitization and advocacy drive within the media community. The objective is to educate journalists on the subject of SRHR and how they can effectively report violations of same and also getting the participants to cascade knowledge gained to other journalists.

Facilitators at the training were:

  1. Rommy Mom, Esq. – President, Lawyers Alert.

2.  Mrs. Abubakar Abubakar – Director, UNFPA.

3.  Charles – Director, UNAIDS.

SRH, HIV & GENDER ISSUES IN NIGERIA

Facilitator – Zubaida Abubakar, UNFPA

Topic – “SRH, HIV and Gender Issues in Nigeria.” (Focus: Key Populations)

She began by acknowledging the vital role journalists play as watchdogs of the society in ensuring the protection of Human Rights. “We need to engage the media,” she enthused, “our work is based on evidence. Children and girls are mostly victims of SRHR violations. They are victims of rape, violence, etc. We have to educate them and the media can help achieve this.”

To buttress her claims that children and teenage girls were the most vulnerable in terms of SRHR violations, Mrs. Abubakar reinforced her facts with statistics shown below:

  • In Nigeria, girls particularly between the ages of 18-22 years of age are likely to get pregnant before marriage. The North has a preponderance of early marriage.
  • Female hawkers are particularly vulnerable to rape.
  • Owing to poverty, religious and cultural issues, girls are married off at the young ages of 9-22. They are most at risk of HIV and Vesico-Vaginal Fistula, a condition that frequently occurs when underage girls give birth. Nigeria has up to 600,000 cases of VVF. Girls with the condition tend to be stigmatised and isolated.
  • 47.6% of illiterate girls get pregnant early. They have no idea of the use of contraceptives.
  • Maternal and child mortality rate is high in Nigeria: For every 100,000 births, 576 infants die, while approximately 111 of the mothers die in childbirth.

Consequences

On the consequences of the violations of the SRHR of girls, Mrs. Abubakar pointed out that:

  • There is no opportunity for their being educated (attending school).
  • The vicious cycle of poverty is continued.
  • They are isolated.
  • 25% of the girls whose SRHR are violated contribute nothing to the economy.

What to Address

On what to address, Mrs. Abubakar explained

  • Girls should be kept in school to discourage child marriage.
  • Girls who do not get formal education should be empowered through vocational skills.
  • The health and well-being of children should be prioritised.
  • Girls should be trained in the use of contraceptives.
  • There should be a conducive environment for children and girls.
  • Keepers of the traditional institutions should be enagaged in these efforts to obtain their support which could in turn influence parents to change their beliefs.
  • Children and girls should be given comprehensive HIV education.
  • Young people should be co-opted into the information dissemination process.
  • Social could also be a useful tool in this effort.

UNFPA Projects

On the projects being carried out by UNFPA, Mrs. Abubakar noted:

  • 4,150 are being supported with the help of Canada. In Nigeria’s North, UNFPA provides support in the education sector. In Lagos (the suburbs of Lagos State), out of school children are being supported by training them in vocational work. 270 of the girls were able to impact 20,000 others.
  • Campaign launched last year to end child marriage in Nigeria.
  • A forum was set up to educate various communities on the negative effects of early marriage.
  • UNFPA collaborates with local NGOs to carry out their work with ongoing projects in Kaduna and Kebbi States.
  • Support is being provided for girls suffering from VVF

EFFORTS AT ENHANCING SRHR REPORTAGE IN NIGERIA

Facilitator – Charles, UNAIDS

Topic – “Efforts at Enhancing SRHR Reportage in Nigeria.”

Mr. Charles introduced a five-page news report culled from The Associated Press, which he distributed to all participants titled: “Rampaging Sudan Troops Raped Foreigners, Killed Locals.” Using the news report as a yardstick for measuring reports on SRHR, he asked participants to read the report and critique.

Most participants condemned the detailed style of reporting. They were of the view that The Associated Press was so detailed in the reportage that within days of publication, Sudanese citizens were able to identify victim of the gang rape perpetrated by 15 South Sudanese soldiers.

A participant, (a female journalist with the Daily Trust), was of the view that the victim’s identity ought to have been protected in line with the ethics of the profession. Though her name was withheld, the description of the location and the race of the victim, were so vivid that Sudanese citizens had no problem identifying the victim.

A few of the participants, however, had a dissenting opinion. One of them was of the view that the detailed reportage was what led to further investigations.

The Facilitator left the critiquing to the professionals only pointing out the following issues:

  1. The news is about sexual violence in the context of armed conflict.
  2. Giving tips (reports) to journalists helps with exposing SRHS violations.

HUMAN RIGHTS DIMENSION

Facilitator – Rommy Mom (Lawyers Alert President)

Topic – “Human Rights Dimension on Violations of SRHR,”

Citing the cases of the FSWs in Abuja and the suspected gay people in Gishiri village, in Abuja, Lawyers Alert intervened, Mr. Mom emphasized the need to protect key affected populations. To buttress his point, he cited the case of a Customs Officer who was accused of theft in a market in Jalingo, Adamawa state and subsequently beaten to death. It was only after the mob action that his identity was revealed.

Mr. Mom rounded off his session with a quote he once saw in a prison in a prison he visited. The placard read: “A society is judged by how it treats the weakest among them.”

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

The issue of homosexuality in Nigeria is a touchy one especially since the country has enacted laws criminalising same sex relationship and marriage. It was no wonder therefore that the following questions came up:

Q – “If I heard you clear, you mean you offer free legal services to homosexuals?”

Rommy Mom – “Yes, if we offer 10 free legal services to victims of SRHR violations, including homosexuals.”

Q – “How do you marry this with the Nigerian laws which prohibit homosexuality?”

  1. M – “Years ago, in Gishiri village, a pastor mobilised a mob to attack some persons alleged to be homosexuals. They broke into their houses, assaulted them, took them to the police station, and they were detained. This to the Pastor and his believers was in keeping with the law. We urge you however to examine the process. It is an offence to break into a persons’ home, assault the person etc. Yet we choose to ignore this. It is so much as the law, the process. We don’t violate rights, in getting to the end of the law. Lawyers Alert is about rights of ALL. Remember again, it is the court that determines culpability at the end of the day. The law does not permit any person to break the doors of people on ground of suspicion of being homosexual. It is the court that will determine the guilt of any person alleged to have committed a crime. Homosexuals, like other groups be they Female Sex workers, Persons Living With HIV, Persons who use Drugs etc are the vulnerable people in the society. How we treat and relate with them is different with coloration of stigma and discrimination. Ours is to focus on the rights of these key population groups.”

Q – “Do you also offer services to children and victims of domestic violence?”

  1. M – “Yes, we offer free legal services to children and victims of domestic violence. A 10-year old girl was raped recently. Her mother could not afford to pay transport fare. We offered her free legal services and we also paid for her transport fares.”

WAY FORWARD

On way forward, all participants agreed that:

  1. We should keep journalist informed as journalists are human beings and not ghosts that should know everything that happens in the society.
  2. Outcome of meetings should be shared. It could be visual, audio or text.
  3. Lawyers Alert could organise meetings to keep journalists informed.

CONCLUSION

Mr. Mom thanked all participants and assured them that the training just held was just one of many more to be held, and that from time to time, Lawyers Alert will hold refresher trainings for those in attendance.

 

 

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Reason to monitor Human Rights Abuses

By Sunday Adaji Esq

One common denominator among human rights defenders is the passion to fight, protect, and defend the fundamental rights of citizens. This passion has led some lawyers to sacrifice their time, money, resources and even life and limb, in defense of citizens’ inalienable rights.

The history of the human rights struggle is as old as the history of mankind. In the Bible, we read how Cain murdered Abel his brother in cold blood. There was no justification for the murder of Abel by Cain. From the time of Abel till now, human rights abuse has continued to rise at a geometric rate while the rate of protection and defence against human rights abuse, on the other hand, only rises arithmetically. Just when you have successfully prosecuted a case of human rights abuse and want to jubilate, you hear yet more cases of others whose rights have been infringed.

Nigeria, has witnessed all forms of human rights abuse by the state actors whether during the military era or in the democratic dispensation and by non-state actors.  Thousands of citizens have been killed by Boko Haram terrorists and millions of others were rendered homeless due to Boko Haram’s invasion In every nook and cranny of the country, human rights abuse exist. Issues of child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, rape, lynching, homicides, baby factories aimed at making babies primarily for commercial purposes, deprivation, false imprisonment, etc still abound and actually appear to be on the increase. 

As long as rights exist, so shall abuses, making the need to monitor paramount. So long human rights defenders make efforts at combating  human rights abuse and reducing it to the barest minimum, dignity of more persons can be protected. abusers.

We will not forget in a hurry heroes in Nigeria the military era for example. Be they organizations like NADECO, CLO or persons like  the Fawehinmis, the Ransome – Kutis, the Agbakobas, or the Nigerian Press, and many others too numerous to mention, who wrestled with military dictatorships and eventually saw them out of power. The feat achieved by these human-rights-minded Nigerians convinces me beyond an iota of doubt that we can reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum, if only we are willing to contribute our quota towards protecting and defending citizens from having their human rights abused.

Everyday people’s rights are violated with impunity. Some, we witness ourselves, others are reported to us. And many others are reported on the internet and in the print and electronic media, yet we do nothing about them. We cannot continue to fold our arms and watch perpetrators violate people’s rights. We have to show and feel concerned with what happens to others. We might be the next victim! You never can tell!

There is always something you can do when you see other people’s rights being abused. Don’t shrug your shoulders, walk away and say, “It is none of my business.” It is your business. If it doesn’t concern you today, it may concern you tomorrow. Be your brother’s keeper. Do something. You can report to the police, you can report to the press. We have many radio stations, television stations and print media around us. We also have many human rights organizations around us, they are within your reach.

We don’t have to keep mute in the face human rights abuse. The reason human rights abuse is rampant is because we are not doing anything about it. If we are ready to do something about it, we will reduce human rights abuse to the barest minimum.

And for us human rights lawyers, TENACITY is our watchword! We are not relenting, we are not quitting! We will not fold our arms! More often than not, we will spend our money, time and resources pursuing this just cause, but these are the sacrifices we must make to ensure that people enjoy their inalienable rights.

Sunday Adaji is a human rights lawyer and legal officer with Lawyers Alert. He can be reached on 07061016859

 

Lawyers Alert Brings Human Rights Lawyers together on provision of legal literacy and access to justice to vulnerable groups in Nigeria.

By Roseline Oghnebrume

Lawyers Alert in partnership with UNAIDS Nigeria, brought together human rights lawyers under the auspices of Coalition of Lawyers For Human Rights, COLaHR, on the 28th and 29th day of October 2015 at Kanem Suites, Utako Abuja to interact with People Living with HIV (PLWHIV), People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs), Female Sex Workers (FSWs), Sexual Minorities towards provision of free legal assistance and legal literacy.

The Coalition of Lawyers for Human Rights (CoLaHR) which consists of Volunteer Lawyers across 23 states in Nigeria has as its  mandate the provision of free Legal Assistance and Interventions for Key Populations and Vulnerable Groups in Nigeria.

This event was aimed at bringing Members of CoLaHR and Members of Key Populations and Vulnerable Groups to get to know one another to ensure justice for all and to create awareness of relevant law as members of CoLaHR have been finding it very challenging connecting with Vulnerable Groups since the Coalition was formed. It was also a forum to increase the visibility of CoLaHR and to build confidence and trust between the Vulnerable Groups and Lawyers.COLAHR Meetin

At the event there was an official launch of the CoLaHR website (http://www.colahr.org), CoLaHR help line (08026826761) and email (colahr.nigeria@gmail) making it easy for the Key populations and vulnerable groups to reach the CoLaHR members promptly when the need arises. Ramaroson Mianko representing UNAIDS Country Director, Dr Bilali Camara, emphasized the importance of the website stating that it was created to facilitate  the protection of Human Rights and also to serve a resource base. Informative, Educative and Communication materials (pamphlets and posters) explaining rights and where to go when one’s fundamental Human Rights are abused were developed and distributed to Key and Affected Populations during the meeting to take home and also distribute to the grass roots and the larger community towards possible validation and mass circulation afterwards.

Mr. Kunle Adeniyi, representing of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) expressed his delight with the passion being exhibited by the participants but also cautioned that the forum cannot fully settle the issues of the law as it relates to Human Rights as the Law is constantly existing. He congratulated UNAIDS, Lawyers Alert and CoLaHR for a job well done and for the official launch of the website.

The Executive Director of INCRESE, Dorothy Akenova expressed her joy at the launch of CoLaHR website and stated that she had never been more happy working with Lawyers Alert and UNAIDS. Most participants expressed the feeling that hitherto were not comfortable in the same room with  Lawyers as they always had the mindset that no one understands them and the society at large always discriminates against them. They thanked Lawyers Alert and UNAIDS for organizing the meeting especially with members of CoLaHR  volunteering to provide Legal Assistance to them.

Barrister Rommy Mom, President of Lawyers Alert commended and appreciated his learned colleagues who have offered to give themselves and their time to the Vulnerable Groups to protect and offer pro-bono legal services when their rights have been infringed.

At the end of the 2 day event, an effective networking and trust building between the Lawyers and the Vulnerable Groups was enhanced and  agreed modality between the Vulnerable Groups and members of CoLaHR on reaching out when in need. The participants also learnt about the common violations faced, knowledge of their rights and knowledge of the legal needs of key populations and vulnerable groups.

The members of the Coalition agreed on the following: There should be a permanent staff for CoLaHR, Legal fund for CoLaHR be established and administered by Lawyers Alert, Members of CoLaHR should be trained on Human Right practice, More Lawyers should be trained to increase the number of Lawyers under CoLaHR, There should be a meeting with critical stakeholders and bodies, The need for specialization by CoLaHR members where necessary and the need to have periodic meetings.

 

 

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The Politics Of Gay Marriage In Nigeria

By Leo Igwe

President Muhammad Buhari has stated during his recent visit to the US that his government would not consider decriminalizing gay marriage in Nigeria. Well, that did not come to me as a surprise because President Buhari is a hardline conservative muslim whom I think would be unwilling to support any legislative or policy change that is not compatible with sharia law.

Yes it would have been a real surprise if he had urged a policy shift towards a more dignified and respectful treatment of gay persons. That notwithstanding, the campaign for the recognition of the rights of gay people in Nigeria goes on because this campaign is not about what President Buhari wants. It is not about his interpretation of what is in accordance with ‘our culture’ or ‘our religion’ but about the rights of Nigerian citizens which are beyond the power of any president or state to deny. Yes it is beyond the politics of President Buhari to deny the human rights of Nigerian citizens on the basis of sexual orientation.

Buhari’s opposition to gay rights is more disappointing because this is a man who campaigned on the platform of ‘change’ and who distances himself from the policies and programs of his predecessor. Now it is clear that when it comes to homophobia and the persecution of gays in Nigeria, Buhari stands with former President Goodluck Jonathan, who signed the anti-gay marriage bill into law.

This means Nigerians who support the human rights of gays and lesbians and who are yearning for change and progress in the treatment of gays may have to wait for another presidential champion of change to provide leadership in this critical area. Yes, given his antecedents, nobody has expected Buhari to make a ‘radical shift’ on this human rights matter. But at least he could put in place a process that would eventually lead to a dignified treatment of gay persons in Nigeria. It is still not too late. This is how many countries have approached and are approaching the matter. Why should our approach in Nigeria be different? Why should the approach by the Nigerian government be inclined towards hated and intolerance of gays? What crimes have homosexuals committed?

Unfortunately, the Buhari presidency has decided to rehash the same meaningless argument which past governments have used to justify the legitimization of gay hatred and discrimination. They claim that gay marriage is against “our culture”. Now let’s think about this. When they say “our culture” which culture are they really referring to? Does Nigeria have ‘a culture’? Nigeria has many cultures. Moreover which culture in Nigeria endorses the killing and persecution of people with homosexual tendencies?.

Now let us assume that gay marriage is not part of our culture (whatever that means). If not being part of ‘our culture’ is the ground for justifying the persecution of gay people and for the criminalizing gay marriage? Is Islam part of ‘our culture’? Is ‘sharia law’ part of our culture? Is going on pilgrimage to Mecca part of our culture? Is Christianity part of our culture? Is the Bible part of our culture?

Many of the practices which we identify as part of our culture today were not there decades and centuries ago because cultures change.

And if other cultures are coming to terms with such changes by recognizing the rights of gay and lesbian persons, why shouldn’t Nigeria do the same? If Nigeria cannot lead the way by legalizing gay marriage, why can’t Africa’s most populous nation emulate best human rights practices and treat gays with dignity? This is not too much a demand to make from a president who campaigned and won election on the platform of change.

Leo Igwe, as a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, has bravely worked for human rights in West Africa. He is presently enrolled in a three year research programme on “Witchcraft accusations in Africa” at the University of Bayreuth, in Germany

 

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AU And The Al-Bashir Challenge

President Al-Bashir’s atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region churn the stomach. African leaders who are shielding him from arrest do themselves no good

In the past week, Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s President for over 26 years, was forced to beat a hasty retreat from South Africa where he had gone to participate in the Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU). This followed the order of the South African High Court asking the government to detain him pending the determination of an application seeking his transfer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, where he stands accused of multiple counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in relation to the situation in Darfur, western Sudan.

The circumstances of President Bashir’s escape from South Africa remain unclear. What is clear is that he travelled at the invitation of the government of South Africa that had issued an instrument specifically granting him immunity from arrest while he was in the country. In 2014, the government of David Cameron issued a similar instrument to protect former Israeli foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, during her trip to the United Kingdom.   While many people, including within South Africa, have condemned the action of both Al-Bashir and the government that appeared prepared to flout its own judicial institutions in his favour, opinion remains deeply divided within the continent on how to resolve what has become a serious problem that will not likely go away.

To be sure, the allegations against President Al-Bashir concern the most serious crimes known to humanity. The fact that these charges are made against a sitting and long standing president underscores the need to treat them with utmost seriousness. Yet, the attitude of both President Al-Bashir and the AU to these charges has been anything but serious. For sure, there is genuine disagreement in international law as to whether or not a country can arrest a sitting head of state, especially one with whom it enjoys diplomatic and friendly relations. But it is equally agreed that there can be no immunity against crimes as serious as those with which President Al-Bashir is charged.

To its credit, the AU and its institutions have invested considerable diplomatic capital in the situation in Darfur. In 2004, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights had similarly found that crimes against humanity had been committed there and equally made far reaching recommendations. In 2008, it established the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) led by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, to investigate the situation in Darfur. But President Al-Bashir has failed to cooperate with or respect the AUHIP. Even worse, he has sought to diminish the AU by his intransigence.

To prevent further embarrassment of African leaders who kill their own people, the AU has amended the Protocol of the African Court on Human and Peoples rights based in Arusha, Tanzania. If the protocol is ratified by just 15 member states, the court will exercise criminal jurisdiction in respect of the kinds of crimes with which President Al-Bashir is charged. But the African leaders who are opposed to the ICC have refused to ratify the protocol. Even with respect to human rights violations only seven states (Burkina Faso, Cote D’ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania, Malawi and Rwanda) have made a declaration accepting the court’s jurisdiction.

The objections to the Al-Bashir arrest warrant, weighty as they may be, therefore, genuinely miss the point: The institution of the presidency anywhere cannot be reduced to the squalid role of shielding from accountability persons charged with the greatest crimes known to humanity. The AU has adopted a decision requiring African countries to decline co-operation to the ICC in enforcing the warrant against President Al-Bashir. This is wrong. The hundreds of thousands of people both killed and displaced in Darfur also deserve justice and protection from the AU.

The African leaders who are shielding Al-Bashir from accountability do themselves and the continent no good. It is even more disheartening that they do not believe that there should be sanctions for such crimes. As long as such impunity reigns supreme in the continent, victims of gross human rights abuse and genocidal acts traceable to African leaders will continue to cry to the ICC for redress since the criminal justice system in most of the countries cannot try such VIPs.
culled from Thisday
 

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Nigeria’s president must prosecute crimes by rebels, army: U.N

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations’ top human rights official called on Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday to investigate reports of horrifying crimes by Boko Haram Islamist rebels and alleged abuses by the military.

Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said he had seen allegations of mass executions, rape and amputations of children by Boko Haram – a day after two blasts killed more than 30 people in the group’s northeast heartland.

There were also reports Nigeria armed forces had mistreated people detained on suspicion of belonging to the group, he added.

“Civilians in northeast Nigeria have been living through horrifying acts of cruelty and violence by Boko Haram. These include wanton killings, summary executions, forced participation in military operations – including the use of children to detonate bombs, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual violence, including rape,” Zeid said in a statement.

Buhari, who was sworn in a week ago, said on Wednesday that Nigeria’s army will take a bigger role in the effort to crush Boko Haram, by taking over from soldiers from Niger in occupying towns liberated from the Islamist militant group.

Zeid, citing eyewitness testimony gathered by his office on atrocities committed by Boko Haram, said: “We have reports of children who were suspected of theft and had their hands amputated, of a man stoned to death on accusations of fornication, mass executions of captives whose hands and legs were bound and who were dumped into rivers and wells.”

At least 1,000 people, “possibly many more,” were brutally killed by Boko Haram in Mararaba Madagali in Adamawa State in late 2014, the statement said.

Other witnesses described how insurgents asked villagers in Kwajafa in Borno state in April to gather to hear them preach.

“When the villagers gathered, the insurgents opened fire. The U.N. Human Rights Office has also received a video recording of an execution, allegedly of a girl who refused to convert to Islam.”

Zeid, referring to “extremely worrying reports” that had emerged about the conduct of Nigerian armed forces, said one man testified about his ordeal when he was mistaken for a Boko Haram member and detained by the military in Yola in Adamawa.

“The man said he spent five days without food or water, as detainees drank the urine of others to quench their thirst. He claimed that there was an average of five deaths per day in the facility,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from the Nigerian government or armed services.

 

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