Nigerian govt must end crimes of enforced disappearances ― Amnesty International

Amnesty International on Monday said the Nigerian government must urgently address the heinous crimes of enforced disappearances of individuals and comply with the international law obligations.

Commemorating the International Day of Support for Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the organisation noted that “families affected by enforced disappearances live through unimaginable torment,” saying when “people vanish without a trace, with the acquiescence of the state who then denies all knowledge, it is impossible to move on.”

This was contained in a statement signed by the Amnesty International media manager, Mr Isa Sanusi, which was forwarded to the Nigerian Tribune.

A sister to a 33-year-old businessman who disappeared in August 2014 after arrest by the police told Amnesty International: “My brother’s disappearance affected everyone at home. We just decided to leave everything to faith, hoping he will show up one day. But we need closure, for us to know what actually happened to him. As it is now nobody knows whether he is alive or dead.”

According to the statement, “each year, this symbolic day marks families’ daily wait for the truth of the fate of their disappeared relatives. The Nigerian authorities must bring them to hope for justice, stop their delaying tactics and fulfil their promise to make end enforced disappearance.

“Nigerian security forces’ attempts to clampdown on Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) militants have led to arbitrary arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the South-East and Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The whereabouts of at least 50 suspected members of IPOB arrested in Oyigbo, Rivers state are still unknown since their arrest in October and November 2020.

“The unresolved enforced disappearances of several activists underscore the need for action. Abubakar Idris also known as Dadiyata, a vocal government critic and university lecturer was abducted in his home in Kaduna on 2 August 2019 and has not been seen since. The government has denied holding him.

“Fifteen years-old Emmanuel John was arrested by soldiers when they raided a synagogue at Oyigbo in Rivers state on October 2020 in search of members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). His family members have searched for him without success. His whereabouts remain unknown.

“Another victim Felix Adika (44) was last seen on 27 February 2016 after he was arrested by the DSS in Bayelsa. At the time Felix had been working with other former militants in the Niger Delta region to access government amnesty payments. He was asked to go back and bring other former militants but was arrested instead. In March 2019, his family learned he was in DSS detention and travelled to see him. They were asked to write an application but never saw him. His wife also lost a five-month pregnancy after his arrest.

“In a similar case of enforced disappearances, Izuchukwu Okeke, a 41-year-old commercial motorcycle rider was last seen on 5 July 2021 when he visited a police station in Owerri, Imo State. He was earlier arrested on June 17, 2021, and released after being detained for two weeks. He was lured back to the station and rearrested after the police accused him of informing the relatives of other detainees about the whereabouts of their sons. The police warned his relatives that they will be shot if they ever come for his bail. Since then his whereabouts remain unknown.

“The cases of at least 200 people – including former militants from Niger Delta, members of IPOB, #EndSARS protesters and security suspects believed to have been subjected to unresolved enforced disappearances in Nigeria have been documented by Amnesty International – The real number is believed to be higher.

“Nigerian security forces often cite the anti-terror law introduced in that allows the authorities to hold people without charge or trial in unofficial places of detention, often without contact to the outside world in practice, clearly increase the risk of people disappearing after being detained.

“Not only these tragic disappearances but also the government’s continuing failure to establish the truth and bring justice to their families, are growing stains on Nigeria reputation. Scores of disappearance cases such as these remain unresolved and cast doubt on the Nigerian government’s commitment to keeping its own citizens safe.

“Nigeria is bound by international legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances both of which it has acceded to – to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide remedies and reparation for the crimes of enforced disappearance.

“The authorities must demonstrate zero tolerance for such crimes. They must take immediate action to end enforced disappearances and other serious violations, carry out independent, impartial and effective investigations, and prosecute those in the security forces suspected of responsibility in fair trials,” the statement concluded.



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