News

How Cameroon torture, abuse and forcefully return thousands of…

Cameroon’s military has carried out a mass forced return of 100,000 Nigerian asylum seekers in an effort to stem the spread of Boko Haram, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Wednesday.

The deportations defy the UN refugee agency’s plea not to return anyone to northeast Nigeria “until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably,” and leaves deportees facing spiralling violence, displacement and destitution.

The 55-page report, “‘They Forced Us Onto Trucks Like Animals’: Cameroon’s Mass Forced Return and Abuse of Nigerian Refugees,” documents that since early 2015, Cameroonian soldiers have tortured, assaulted, and sexually exploited Nigerian asylum seekers in remote border areas, denied them access to the UN refugee agency, and summarily deported, often violently, tens of thousands to Nigeria. It also documents violence, poor conditions, and unlawful movement restrictions in Cameroon’s only official camp for Nigerian refugees, as well as conditions recent returnees face in Nigeria.

“The Cameroonian military’s torture and abuse of Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers seems to be driven by an arbitrary decision to punish them for Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon and to discourage Nigerians from seeking asylum,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee director at Human Rights Watch. “Cameroon should heed the UN’s call on all countries to protect refugees fleeing the carnage in northeast Nigeria, not return them there.”

In late June and July 2017, Human Rights Watch interviewed 61 asylum seekers and refugees in Nigeria about the abuses they faced in Cameroon. They said soldiers had accused them of belonging to Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant Islamist group, or of being “Boko Haram wives” while torturing or assaulting them and dozens of others on arrival, during their stay in remote border areas, and during mass deportations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it has heard similar accounts from Nigerians living in Cameroon’s border areas.

Some said their children, weakened after living for months or years without adequate food and medical care in border areas, died during or just after the deportations, and others said children were separated from their parents.

An asylum seeker who was deported from Mora in March 2017 described how without warning, Cameroonian soldiers rounded up 40 asylum seekers “and severely beat us and forced us onto a bus. They beat some of the men so badly, they were heavily bleeding. When we got to the Nigerian border they shouted ‘Go and die in Nigeria.’”

Refugees who reached Cameroon’s only designated camp for Nigerian refugees, in Minawao, have also faced violence from Cameroonian soldiers. While they have some protection as refugees, the approximately 70,000 people there have had limited access to food and water and abusive restrictions on their movement. In April and May, 13,000 returned from Minawao to a displacement camp in Banki, just across the border in Nigeria. Some were killed in early September when Boko Haram attacked the camp.

Although UNHCR does not have reliable access to most of Cameroon’s border areas with Nigeria, in early June it said its monitoring partners found Cameroon had forcibly returned almost 100,000 Nigerians to their country since January 2015. In late June, the Nigerian authorities responded to Cameroonian pressure by sending military vehicles over the border to help Cameroon deport almost 1,000 asylum seekers. That made Nigeria complicit in the unlawful forced return of its own citizens.

Tens of thousands of deportees from Cameroon end up in insecure militarized displacement camps or villages in Borno State, where conditions are dire, and women and girls face sexual exploitation. These sites are surrounded by the ongoing conflict between Nigeria’s armed forces and Boko Haram, which as of mid-September had displaced almost 2 million other Nigerian civilians.

Cameroon’s forced returns are a breach of the principle of nonrefoulement, which prohibits the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers to persecution and, under regional standards in Africa, to situations of generalized violence, such as in northeast Nigeria.

Since 2014, Cameroonian armed forces have carried out operations against Boko Haram in the country’s Far North Region. Cameroon has the right to regulate the presence of non-nationals on its territory, including those proven to be threat to its national security. The authorities also have an obligation to carefully investigate attacks in Cameroon by suspected Boko Haram members. However, it may not block refugees from seeking asylum and summarily deport them.

After staying publicly silent on the situation for two years, in late March, UNHCR publicly criticised the authorities for their mass forced refugee returns. The criticism was triggered by deportations after Cameroon had signed an agreement that month with Nigeria and UNHCR confirming that it would ensure that all refugee return was voluntary.

As of mid-September, the Cameroonian authorities had allowed UNHCR only to pre-register asylum seekers in some border communities, leaving those pre-registered and tens of thousands of other asylum seekers without access to meaningful protection and putting them at risk of deportation.

The Cameroonian authorities deny any forced return or abuse of Nigerian asylum seekers and have not replied to a Human Rights Watch request for a response to the report’s findings. Cameroon has had a reputation as a generous country toward refugees since the early 1970s and it has hosted tens and then hundreds of thousands of refugees since then.

“Faced with overwhelming evidence of mass refugee abuse and UN condemnation, Cameroon is trying to bury its head in the sand,” Simpson said. “But returning tens of thousands of Nigerians to harm and destitution will only further shred its well-deserved reputation as a generous refugee-hosting country.” culled from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/244317-cameroon-torture-abuse-forcefully-return-thousands-nigerian-refugees-hrw.html

News

International Criminal Court to receive 2017 Stockholm Human Rights…

The 2017 recipient of the Stockholm Human Rights Award was announced two weeks ago as the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’ or the ‘Court’). Given in recognition of work advancing international justice and strengthening respect for human rights, the Award is bestowed annually by the Swedish Bar Association, the International Bar Association and the International Legal Assistance Consortium.

In Stockholm, Sweden, on 20 November 2017, in the presence of Their Majesties King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia and an audience of eminent individuals in international law, the Principals of the ICC – the President, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi; the Prosecutor, Dr Fatou Bensouda, and the Registrar, Mr Herman von Hebel  – will receive the Award jointly on behalf of the Court. Read more about the award on the International Bar Association Website here.

Press Releases

AHEAD OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE THE NIGERIAN…

As we celebrate the international day of peace, we appeal to the Nigerian government to increase the use of dialogue in internal agitations and conflict resolution and by so doing, develop a sense of joint ownership of the process and become stakeholders in identifying new approaches to address common challenges

Nigeria has experienced a high rate of conflict and civil agitations in recent times. From the insurgency in the northeast where several Nigerian citizens have been killed and others left internally displaced to poor governance, human rights abuses and human rights violations, uneven development, environmental degradation to military invasion of states in the northeast to quell the “insurrection.” The number of violent conflicts increases daily as the government sometimes adopts a posture that shows an unwillingness to engage in dialogue to transform societies and find real solutions to the country’s most complex challenges.

As the world comes together to show its commitment to peace, the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court urges the Nigerian Government to increase the use of dialogue in internal agitations and conflict resolution in Nigeria.

Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and the provision of access to justice for all. It is high time that our leaders explore the use of dialogue as a means of resolving internal agitations in the country in other to achieve peace.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, practicing a democratic system of government should desist from unusual use of force in addressing internal issues. We as a nation are binded by international obligations and as such should explore reasonable measures to resolve conflicts rather than resort to force at the slightest opportunity. The UN secretary general António Guterres today while addressing the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations Headquarters, announced the creation of a high-level advisory board on mediation. He stressed the need for “a surge in diplomacy today” and “a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow,” he said that it is possible to move from war to peace and from dictatorship to democracy.  Dialogue is crucial to the maintenance of peace and security and could promote reconciliation in the aftermath of conflict and could also introduce moderate voices into polarized debates,” he added;  “At a time when prejudice and hatred are all too common, when extremists seek new recruits through incitement and identity-based appeal, when politicians use divisiveness as a strategy to win elections — dialogue can be an antidote.”

It is our believe that if the leaders of this great country employ adequate use of dialogue then it will be unnecessary to deploy the military to the east to cause unrest and acts of genocide. Neither will there  be a need for the operation python/crocodile dances amongst others.

 

 

Naomi Emeka

International Criminal Justice Counsel

NCICC

Press Releases

THE UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE PYTHON DANCE11 BY THE NIGERIAN…

The NCICC  frowns at the illegality and unconstitutionality of the ‘python dance’ instituted by the Nigerian Military  to curb an insurection that does not exist. it is an aberration and a flagrant disregard to the rights of civilians in the country.

Although the President is empowered by virtue of section 217(2) of the Constitution to deploy the armed forces for the “suppression of insurrection and acting in aid of civil authorities to restore law order” he cannot exercise the power until there is an insurrection or civil disturbance which cannot be contained by the police. the police by virtue of section 215(3) was created and empowered to maintain peace and public safety, not the army.

Since there was no insurrection in Abia State which the Nigeria Police Force could not contain, the deployment of armed troops by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces cannot be justified in law.

However, if the federal government has evidence of other criminal offences recently committed by Mr. Kanu the Police should have been directed to arrest him and charge him to court without any delay.

“Neither the Constitution nor the Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 has empowered the Nigeria Army to arrest any citizen who is not subject to service law.

In  Yussuf v Obasanjo (2005) 18 NWLR (Pt 956) 96 the Court of Appeal held that “It is up to the police to protect our nascent democracy and not the military, otherwise the democracy might be wittingly or unwittingly militarized. This is not what the citizenry bargained for in wrestling power from the military in 1999. Conscious steps should be taken to civilianise the polity to ensure the survival and sustenance of democracy”.

Regrettably, no conscious efforts have been made by the civilian government to demilitarise the country since power was transferred from former military dictators to the civilian wing of the political class in May 1999. Hence, armed soldiers have been allowed to continue to be involved in the maintenance of law and order in all the states of the federation. Up till now, state governments have allowed armed soldiers to remain members of the police anti robbery squads. They have been deployed, from time to time, by the President to deal with the menace of herdsmen and kidnappers. They have just been authorized to deal ruthlessly with civilians who are involved in any form of agitation for self determination.

“There is no legal basis for authorizing the Nigerian army to take over police duties. Even under the defunct military era in Nigeria the military dictators had to declare a state of emergency to legitimize the usurpation of police powers by the armed forces. But under a democratic dispensation the President and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces lacks the power to deploy members of the armed forces in the maintenance of internal security in any part of the country. We may want to recall that in waging  the war on terror in the north east region, a state of emergency was declared by President Jonathan to justify the deployment of members of the armed forces as part of the extraordinary measures required by him to restore law and order pursuant to section 305 of the Constitution. Thereafter, the President sought and obtained the approval of the National Assembly for the said deployment of the armed forces.

The coalition therefore urge Mr President to order the withdrawal of the troops from Abia state and allow the commissioner of police to efficiently dispense his duties.

Downloads

Report on The Presidential Panel set up to Investigate…

The Presidential Panel set up by his excellency the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to review compliance of the armed forces with human rights obligations and rules of engagement, especially in the local conflict and insurgency situations and also  to investigate alleged human rights violations by the Nigerian Army,  held its inaugural sitting in Abuja on the 11th of September 2017 with Benue indigenes narrating how soldiers helped rampaging herdsmen to attack their communities.
The panel opened for witness account and several witnesses were called to testify. In his testimony, the first petitioners’ witness, Mr. Jacob Kwaghkper, who is a retired Deputy Director with the National Commission for Colleges of Education, told the panel that from 2015 to June 2017, five communities that make up the Moon Valley were subjected to intense, sustained and coordinated attacks by soldiers from the 93 Battalion and herdsmen, leading to the death of 28 people. He told the panel that the herdsmen, with the active support of soldiers, were still occupying ancestral lands of the five communities. Lamenting before the panel, Kwaghkper said: “The soldiers are even providing security for the herdsmen, who are occupying the ancestral lands of the communities. “The displaced people of the communities, who escaped from the series of sustained attacks, have become refugees in Cameroon and internally displaced persons, (IDPs), taking shelter in various places in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State, under the watchful eyes of both the Federal and State government without any form of assistance.”

Another witness, Mr. Agbo Utah, told the panel that soldiers watched as herdsmen burnt down his compound. He also narrated how he was beaten, arrested and detained for a week by soldiers who disrupted local government election held in the area in 1998. Demands Aside the narratives, the displaced communities prayed the panel to order immediate restoration of their ancestral lands with adequate compensation. They further want all places     of worship, schools and markets that were destroyed as a result of the attacks by soldiers of the 93 Battalion, Nigerian Army, Takum, Taraba State, and herdsmen, be rebuilt on their original sites.

Shortly after Justice Georgewill, Chairman of the seven-man panel, declared the sitting open, victims who were  residents of Moon Valley communities in Kwande Local Government Area of   Benue State took turns to narrate their experience.    They narrated how about 30,000 persons were displaced by the military from their abode. Represented by their lawyer,        Mr. Mike Utsaha, the community told the panel that while 28 persons were killed in the attack, 91 compounds and property were destroyed.

According to the community, the attack was carried out by the 93 Battalion of the Nigerian Army in Takum, Taraba State. The community, through an 18-page memorandum submitted to the panel, stated how following intense and sustained attacks from 2013 to 2015, they were massacred and displaced from their ancestral land by the combined team of soldiers.
The chairman of the probe panel, Justice Biobele Georgewill, said the proceeding will provide a unique opportunity to those that have genuine and verifiable cases of human rights abuses by the Armed Forces, in the course of managing and containing local conflicts and insurgencies, to submit their memoranda.
The panel will hold a public hearing in each of the six Geo-political zones of the country on selected dates and centers.
Downloads

The National Coordinator of the NCICC Mr Chino Obiagwu…

Mr Chino Obiagwu   he called on states to explore all legislative, diplomatic and legal avenues to robustly respond to concerns of African states in the ICC system
Mr Chino Obiagwu an insightful human rights activist and the National coordinator of the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court took the floor on the 2nd day of the 15th session of the  Assembly of State Parties. He called on states to explore all legislative, diplomatic and legal avenues to robustly respond to concerns of African States in the ICC systems.
Press Releases

The Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court commends…

On Wednesday, the 30th of August 2017, the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and International Development Secretary Priti Patel travelled to Maiduguri, the capital of the north-east state of Borno, which suffered the worst killings by the Islamist terrorist group, including attacks at the university campus to show solidarity with the fight to bring the jihadists under control.

The NCICC commends Patel”s decision to extend a five-year package of help, costing an extra £200m, to prevent 1.5 million people lapsing into famine and help keep a 100,000 boys and girls in education. The development secretary’s package also includes the restoration of key infrastructure and services in the north-east of the country.

In a bid to create an Islamic state in some parts of Nigeria, Lake Chad which spans parts of Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad,the jihadist has committed a large number of human rights and humanitarian law violations in the country by committing acts of genocide and rendering victims displaced. that is why the Nigerian Coalition for the International Criminal Court is rigorously advocating for the domestication of the Rome statute to enable Nigeria try and punish crimes against humanity, impunity crimes and genocide.

Johnson said: “Boko Haram has generated suffering, instability and poverty on a huge scale, with profound knock-on effects far from Nigeria’s borders.”

He met survivors of Boko Haram violence, including bomb and gunshot victims, and saw for himself the displacement of people created by the conflict. It gained notoriety by abducting more than 200 girls from the north-east Nigerian town of Chibok in April 2014.
Some of the girls kidnapped were  forced to wear traditional Islamic clothing.

Johnson, said he was proud of the help the UK was providing: “This is about helping a Commonwealth partner in its time of need as well as addressing the root causes of international challenges such as migration.”

Patel said: “It is catastrophic that at least 20,000 people have been murdered by Boko Haram’s terrorist regime, and over 5 million people have been left hungry and many homeless. Babies’ bodies are shutting down and mothers who have lost everything are fighting to keep their children alive.”

 

News

Sidiki Kaba, President of the Assembly of States Parties…

In a recent government reorganization that took place in Senegal, H.E. Mr. Sidiki Kaba the former Senegalese Minister of Justice and Keeper of Seals has been appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal. Sidiki Kaba thus adds these important roles to his current position as President of the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court. his tenure  which began in December 2014 and was stated to run from the thirteenth to sixteenth sessions of the Assembly, until December 2017.  Mr kaba is binded by the principle that  There is no immunity for the highest political and military leaders.

The Nigerian coalition for the international criminal court congratulates Mr Sidika Kaba on his appointment as the minister of foreign affairs in Senegal knowing fully well the indispensable role he played in kick-starting the  dialogue to rebuild trust between African states on the one hand and the ICC organs and European states on the other.

Minister Kaba’s work plan as President of the ASP has so far focused on the relationship between Africa and the ICC, cooperation with the court, complementarity and universality of the Rome Statute. He participated in the 1998 negotiations of the Rome Statute and thereafter implemented numerous campaigns to promote the ratification of the Statute by Senegal and many other African countries.

image source: pulse.ng News

AMNESTY: Boko Haram Resurgence Kills 381 Civilians Since April

“Boko Haram is once again committing war crimes on a huge scale, exemplified by the depravity of forcing young girls to carry explosives with the sole intention of killing as many people as they possibly can,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International’s director for West and Central Africa.

“This wave of shocking Boko Haram violence, propelled by a sharp rise in suicide bombings, highlights the urgent need for protection and assistance for millions of civilians… Governments in Nigeria, Cameroon and beyond must take swift action to protect them from this campaign of terror.”

Amnesty highlights that this spurt in Boko Haram attacks has claimed nearly 400 lives in Nigeria and Cameroon since April, which is double the amount of the previous 5 months. Out of this number, at least 223 civilians died in Nigeria since April, underscoring that the real toll could be far higher.

“Between May and August, seven times more civilians were killed than in the preceding four months, while 100 civilians were killed in August alone,” it said.

Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in a bid to establish a hardline Islamist state in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north.

At least 20,000 people have been killed in violence since 2009 and more than 2.6 million people have been left homeless. More than five million people are starving as the fighting has devastated farmland, leaving farmers unable to sow or cultivate crops for several years.

In neighbouring Cameroon, Amnesty said since April at least 158 civilians died in Boko Haram strikes, a figure four times higher than the preceding five months.

“The recent spike in casualties has been driven by increased suicide attacks, with 30 –- more than one per week –- carried out since the beginning of April,” it said.

The deadliest attack took place in the town of Waza on July 12 when 16 civilians were killed and at least 34 injured after a young girl was forced to carry and detonate a bomb in a crowded video game centre.

News

UN Names First Victims’ Rights Official to Combat Sexual…

The UN has been shaken by a series of allegations against its peacekeeping soldiers stationed in multiple African countries. In 2016, accusations surfaced that blue helmets on a peacekeeping mission in the CAR had committed sexual crimes including sexual assault, rape, abuse of minors and transactional sex. After investigating, the UN identified 41 suspected soldiers from Gabon and Burundi in December 2016 before passing proceedings onto those countries.

The in June 2017, the Republic of the Congo withdrew around 600 of its troops in the CAR in relation to sexual abuse allegations, leaving some 140 Congolese soldiers under the UN banner.

Peacekeepers in Haiti have also allegedly committed sexual exploitation crimes.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thus announced last month that Jane Connors will become the organization’s first Victims’ Rights Advocate, to eliminate sexual exploitation committed by peacekeeping troops… read more