Amnesty International Tasks National Assembly On Human Rights

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The Amnesty International on Friday in Abuja, called Nigeria’s National Assembly to make the issue of human rights a reality in Nigeria.

In a release made available to P.M.NEWS, the global body stated that Nigeria’s legislative arm of government must play a more prominent role in protecting human rights and must demonstrate its commitment to safeguarding the rights of Nigerians by ensuring that international human rights treaties are incorporated under national law and by making the rights enforceable before a court of law.

This call may not be unconnected with the invasion of the properties of Vintage Press Limited, publishers of The Nation Newspapers and the arrest of staff of the organisation by the Nigeria Police Force a couple of days ago.

Amnesty International delegates have spent the past week in Abuja meeting with senior politicians to present a document, Human Rights Agenda 2011-2015.

The 72-page document and a 10-point agenda demonstrates how Nigeria’s highest law-making body can use their appointment to public office to improve Nigeria’s human rights record.

“Nigeria has shown their commitment to human rights through the ratification of nine major international human rights treaties,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.

“But none of them are incorporated under Nigerian law which makes it all too easy for these commitments to be broken and ignored.”

Among the issues brought to the National Assembly’s attention by the global body is the desperate need to reform the Criminal Justice Sector, in particularly the Police and Prisons acts, and the Administration of Criminal Justice Bill.

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“Nigerians are concerned for their security, yet the police force struggles to fulfill its duty and resort too easily to the use of lethal force,” said Erwin van der Borght.

“More funding is essential to ensure investigations are not cursory but intelligence-led and that arrests are based on reasonable suspicion rather than dragnet techniques.”

Amnesty International believes that the failure to address human rights abuses within the criminal justice sector reinforces the cycles of violence which plague Nigeria including the regular outbreaks of religious, inter ethnic and communal violence.

“We are not asking the National Assembly to reinvent the wheel,” said Erwin van der Borght. “Committees and working groups set up by the Federal Government have produced excellent reports identifying weaknesses and making sound recommendations on almost all of the issues we identify. These just need to be implemented and the National Assembly has an important oversight role to play to ensure these recommendations are implemented.”

The National Assembly should also monitor what progress is being made in implementing the numerous human rights recommendations Nigeria accepted during the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2008, such as the criminalisation of torture and extra judicial executions, ensuring the respect for freedom of expression, and investigation of human rights violations by the police.

It recommended steps which the nation should adopt to guarantee citizen’s rights. These include the reform of the police to stop extra judicial executions, torture and enforced disappearances, reform of the justice sector to improve access to justice, eliminate discrimination and violence against women, protect the rights of the child, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly among others.

—Nnamdi Felix / Abuja