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Joint Statement on the Launch of the U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue

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The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates.

Begin Text:

The United States, led by Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), led by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, today further developed bilateral ties and solidified the strategic partnership between the two countries through the launch of a new strategic dialogue.  The launch of the inaugural U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue demonstrates Emirati and American resolve to advance efforts to promote regional stability and cooperation as partners in peace.

The Strategic Dialogue will cover a number of key areas, from political coordination and defense cooperation to economic and cultural exchange, with the broad aim of advancing mutual policy interests, solving regional issues, promoting tolerance, and countering extremism.

In recognition of the two countries’ security partnership, the Strategic Dialogue is meant to underline the importance of U.S.-UAE defense coordination to deter military threats through joint planning, training, exercises, and interoperability of equipment.  Deepening and expanding the defense and intelligence relationship is expected to enable the UAE to continue developing its security capabilities and the United States to continue playing an active role in regional security efforts.

The Strategic Dialogue will advance cooperation in law enforcement and border security to combat criminal activity, as well as U.S.-UAE- intelligence sharing to counter extremism and strengthen multilateral partnerships that enhance international security.

Moreover, the Strategic Dialogue aims to support mutual prosperity through open and increased trade and investment in critical sectors, including medicine, life sciences, energy, agriculture, food security, logistics, aviation, and artificial intelligence.

On the cultural front, the dialogue is intended to broaden the enduring people-to-people connections between the UAE and United States in education, media, the arts, religious dialogue, and political institutions through our bilateral exchanges.  Important collaboration across these sectors will be further advanced and highlighted by U.S. participation next year at Expo 2020 Dubai, the Middle East’s first-ever World’s Fair.

Furthermore, noting the shared objective to support the peaceful use of outer space to the benefit of humanity, the two countries plan to work to expand cooperation on civil and commercial space activity and provide opportunities for collaboration in the space sector.

Finally, the United States and UAE plan to include within the Strategic Dialogue an effort to strengthen the U.S.-UAE human rights partnership by exchanging best practices and jointly working to combat human trafficking, confront religious hatred and ethnic bigotry, and protect and promote human rights on the domestic, regional, and international levels.

The launch of the U.S.-UAE Strategic Dialogue comes in the wake of the historic Abraham Accords that was achieved with U.S. support, and as the friendship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates has never been stronger.  We share common values and hopes for the future, and our partnership is flourishing in commerce, investment, and defense.  Through the Strategic Dialogue we plan to engage in an open, robust, and deep discussion that sustains and improves our cooperation and deepens our bilateral relationship. 

End text.

Joe Biden stands with peaceful protesters in Nigeria, urges U.S. to do same

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday said the United States “must stand with” peaceful protesters in Nigeria who are demanding police reforms and good governance.

Biden was reacting to reports security forces in Nigeria opened fire on protesters killing several of them.

“I urge President Buhari and the Nigerian military to cease the violent crackdown on protesters in Nigeria, which has already resulted in several deaths. My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one in the violence,” Biden said.

“The United States must stand with Nigerians who are peacefully demonstrating for police reform and seeking an end to corruption in their democracy. I encourage the government to engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria,” he added.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will make a national broadcast Thursday at 7p.m., the Nigerian presidency said in a statement on Thursday, as the country seemed to be slipping into chaos.

The presidency said the address is coming “following detailed briefing by security chiefs on the current situation in the country.”

The national broadcast is also coming on the same day Nigerians in the United States announced they would hold the ‘mother of all protests’ on Saturday against police brutality and bad governance in their home country.

The peaceful protest, to last at least three hours, would begin at 3 p.m. in Randallstown, Baltimore County, Maryland, United States.

“We want our brothers and sisters in Nigeria to know we are with them in this struggle. We are tired of seeing the blood of innocent citizens on the streets of Nigeria,” some of the organizers said in a joint statement to Today News Africa in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning.

“We are tired of police brutality, bad governance, corruption and joblessness,” they said, adding that it would likely be the “mother of all protests” against police brutality and bad leadership across Africa’s most populous nation.

The attendance is likely to be massive, the organizers said, citing the overwhelming number of phone calls they have been receiving since Monday.

The protest would kick off in front of Randallstown Library on Liberty Road, Baltimore, Maryland.

Protesters were advised to wear face masks and would social distance to keep everyone safe amid the raging coronavirus pandemic around the world.

Anger has been rising across the United States after images surfaced early this week showing security forces in Nigeria responding to peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence.

On Thursday, the Trump administration strongly condemned “the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury.”

“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles. 

“We call on the security services to show maximum restraint and respect fundamental rights and for demonstrators to remain peaceful.  We extend our condolences to the victims of the violence and their families,” he added.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday also condemned the use of force against peaceful protesters in Nigeria on Tuesday, saying the government should engage in peaceful dialogue.

“I am deeply concerned over reports of violence in Lagos and urge the Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the #EndSARS protestors for police reform and an end to corruption,” Bill Clinton tweeted.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian army to “stop killing young #ENDSARS protesters.”

Pompeo: US' way of life remains 'the envy for the entire world'
In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, during The Atlantic Festival, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Alex Brandon )

“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigeriaGovernment,” she tweeted.

A former president of Chile, who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on Wednesday, also strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 for the Socialist Party of Chile, the first woman to occupy the position.

Michelle Bachelet
Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief continued. “While the authorities have now dissolved SARS and announced a series of inquiries at both Federal and State levels, there have still been few if any charges levelled against its members despite abundant evidence against various members of the squad, as well as members of other security forces and the army.”

At least 12 Nigerian protesters were killed on Tuesday in two locations in the commercial city of Lagos, Amnesty International said on Wednesday following an investigation. About 38 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, the group added.

“An on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International has confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters yesterday at two locations in Lagos. The killings took place in Lekki and Alausa, where thousands were protesting police brutality as part of the #EndSars movement,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group, which has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began on October 8, 2020, said at least 56 people have died across the country since the protest began, with about 38 killed on Tuesday alone.

Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests, Amnesty International added.

It said “evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6:45pm and 9:00pm on Tuesday 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality.”

“Witnesses at the Lekki protest grounds told Amnesty international that solders arrived at about 6:45pm local time on Tuesday evening, and opened fire on #EndSars protesters without warning. Eyewitnesses at Alausa protest ground said they were attacked by a team of soldiers and policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Unit at about 8:00 pm, leaving at least two people dead and one critically injured.”

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the killings, saying “opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences.”

Amnesty International said it received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate, where #EndSARS protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut – a clear attempt to hide evidence.

As in previous cases documented by Amnesty International, some of those killed and injured at both grounds were allegedly taken away by the military.

“These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials. Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families,” said Osai Ojigho.

Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people has been slipping into chaos in the past one week. In the commercial city of Lagos on Tuesday, heavily armed security officers were said to have shot dead dozens of protesters who have been demanding an end to police brutality.

Local reports said there was heavy shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate area in Lagos on Tuesday evening as the protesters defied a government curfew.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Nigerian authorities on Tuesday “turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree.”

The rights group said “on the evening of October 20, 2020, Nigerian army soldiers opened fire at a crowd of protesters in Lagos who were calling for an end to police brutality.”

“Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens,” wrote Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

For more than a week, peaceful protesters in Nigeria have been demanding that the government steps in and ends police brutality. But the government responded with force, triggering more protests and new demands.

Also on Wednesday, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent a petition to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authoritiesmilitary, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

SERAP urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In another statement on Tuesday, SERAP condemned “reports that security agents are shooting at #EndSARS peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos.”

“This must stop immediately,” the group said as videos emerged that the country was slipping into chaos.

SERAP said: “Under the Nigerian constitution, 1999 [as amended] and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right to life and security of the person, the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of everyone, including peaceful protesters.”

“We call on the Nigeria authorities to order a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the reports of shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate by security agents, identify suspected perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice without delay.”

“All the victims must be allowed access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“SERAP calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open investigations into cases of attacks on peaceful protesters in Nigeria in the context of #EndSARS.”

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information that is now publicly available in the country.”

On Friday, Human Rights Watch expressed outrage as security forces continued to respond to overwhelmingly peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence and abuse.

Nationwide protests began on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In response, the police have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing at least four people and wounding many others. Armed thugs have also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.

“People exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform.”

The protests were sparked by a video that surfaced online on October 3, allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state. This generated an outcry on social media, especially Twitter, where the hashtag #EndSARS began trending globally, and led to protests across Nigeria and in other cities around the world.

Responding in part to the protesters’ demands, the government announced on October 11 that the SARS unit would be disbanded. Yet its members will be integrated into other police units following “psychological tests,” and SARS is to be replaced by a Special Weapons and Tactical Team that is to begin training next week. No steps have been taken to hold SARS officers to account for past abuses, or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.

SARS was formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes. Yet since its inception, the unit has allegedly been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion. Many Nigerians feel that the unit has deliberately profiled and targeted young people, especially those with tattoos, dreadlocks, and visible possessions such as phones and laptops. Over the years, Nigerian authorities have repeatedly promised to reform SARS and ensure accountability for abuses by its officers, but with few results.

Although the authorities have now agreed to abolish SARS and take measures to end police brutality, the protests led by young Nigerians have continued. Protesters are calling for more far-reaching reforms and critical action to address police brutality, especially in the wake of attacks against protesters.

On October 10, a young man, Jimoh Isiaka, was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state, media reports and Amnesty International have said. At least two other people – a man and a teenage boy – were killed the following day in protests against Isiaka’s death, based on a Premium Times investigation that included a video purporting to show police officers dragging bodies into an armored personnel carrier after the shooting.

The Oyo state governor confirmed that three people were killed and at least six others injured during protests in the state. The police said in a statement that they only used tear gas to disperse the protesters and denied allegations of any shooting on October 10.

In Abuja, police dispersed protesters on October 11 with tear gas and water cannons. Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who participated in or were in the vicinity of the protests and were badly beaten by officers.

One, a 30-year-old woman, said that at least four police officers beat her with big sticks and batons soon after the police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

“When we saw officers down the road from us had formed a line facing us, we stopped moving and we sat on the ground or knelt down to show them that we were not aggressive,” she said. “But before we knew it, tear gas started flying all over the place and a strong force of water followed for about 10 to 15 minutes nonstop. I had a mask on and with the water hitting my face, I found it very difficult to breathe. They soon started running in our direction. I didn’t run because I shouldn’t have to; I was not doing anything wrong.”

The woman said that one officer began beating her with a stick, and when she tried to ward him off, two others joined in, with a stick and baton. She lay flat on the ground as they continued beating her. Eventually someone who had been observing and filming on the other side of the road came by in his car and shouted at her to get in. As she tried to get in the car, another officer hit her back with a big stick. She said that the beating fractured her skull and she has had dizzy spells since. She has been hospitalized.

Another, a 28-year-old woman, said that she was on her way home from work on October 11 around the Federal Secretariat in Abuja when she saw a crowd of people running in her direction. She also started running but soon stopped to figure out where she was going.

“As soon as the police arrived there and saw me, one asked me what I was doing there, and when I replied that I was on my way back from work, he asked, ‘Which work?’” she said. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain or show identification before others came and started beating me with big sticks. About six officers gathered around me, beating me as I lay on the ground. One even threatened me with a knife; they emptied the contents of my bag all over the floor and smashed my phone before they let me go.”

On October 12, police officers in Surulere, Lagos, opened gunfire to disperse protesters, killing 55-year-old Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, media reported. Human Rights Watch interviewed two protesters and one journalist at the scene. One protester said that the police arrived and opened fire to disperse the protesters when they were close to a police station around Western Avenue. As he and others were running, they realized that a man had been hit by a bullet and went back to where he was. The protesters watched and filmed as a medical team tried to give the man emergency care, but he died. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and has it on file.

Media reports said that Ilohamauzo was a driver stuck in traffic in the vicinity of the protests who came out of his vehicle to urinate when he was struck by a stray bullet.

Police in Surulere claim that Ilohamauzo was killed by a stray bullet from protesters who they say also shot and killed a police officer during an attack on the police station. They arrested three protesters whom they claim were responsible. Videos have since surfaced online, however, that purport to show that the officer fell to the ground after a burst of fire from his colleagues. The protesters were eventually released. Human Rights Watch has not seen any evidence indicating that protesters were armed or firing on the crowd.

The police arrested dozens of protesters, refused some of them access to their lawyers, and only released them following the intervention of senior government officials, including the state governors and the Senate President. There have been reports of police damaging and confiscating the cameras of protesters and journalists. Alleged pro-government thugs have also injured protesters and destroyed property, media reported.

On October 15, the Nigerian army warned “subversive elements and troublemakers” to desist and offered to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order.” The Nigerian army has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters.

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law. Unnecessary use of force to disperse protesters is unlawful. Protesters should instead be protected by the authorities.

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses by the Nigerian police force for years. In a 2010 report, Human Rights Watch cautioned that the long-term failure of the authorities to address abuses by the police would reinforce impunity and lead to more systemic abuses.

“Nigerian authorities can no longer evade the need for serious reform and accountability in the police system,” Ewang said. “They should go beyond words and send a signal that it is no longer business as usual by investigating the attacks on protesters and taking immediate steps to hold officers and others accountable.”ShareWhatsApp

Buhari to finally address Nigerians as country slips into chaos

President Muhammadu Buhari will make a national broadcast Thursday, October 22, 2020, at 7p.m., the Nigerian presidency said in a statement on Thursday, as the country seemed to be slipping into chaos.

The presidency said the address is coming “following detailed briefing by security chiefs on the current situation in the country.”

The national broadcast is also coming on the same day Nigerians in the United States announced they would hold the ‘mother of all protests’ on Saturday against police brutality and bad governance in their home country.

The peaceful protest, to last at least three hours, would begin at 3 p.m. in Randallstown, Baltimore County, Maryland, United States.

“We want our brothers and sisters in Nigeria to know we are with them in this struggle. We are tired of seeing the blood of innocent citizens on the streets of Nigeria,” some of the organizers said in a joint statement to Today News Africa in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning.

“We are tired of police brutality, bad governance, corruption and joblessness,” they said, adding that it would likely be the “mother of all protests” against police brutality and bad leadership across Africa’s most populous nation.

The attendance is likely to be massive, the organizers said, citing the overwhelming number of phone calls they have been receiving since Monday.

The protest would kick off in front of Randallstown Library on Liberty Road, Baltimore, Maryland.

Protesters were advised to wear face masks and would social distance to keep everyone safe amid the raging coronavirus pandemic around the world.

Anger has been rising across the United States after images surfaced early this week showing security forces in Nigeria responding to peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence.

On Thursday, the Trump administration strongly condemned “the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury.”

“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles. 

“We call on the security services to show maximum restraint and respect fundamental rights and for demonstrators to remain peaceful.  We extend our condolences to the victims of the violence and their families,” he added.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday also condemned the use of force against peaceful protesters in Nigeria on Tuesday, saying the government should engage in peaceful dialogue.

“I am deeply concerned over reports of violence in Lagos and urge the Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the #EndSARS protestors for police reform and an end to corruption,” Bill Clinton tweeted.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian army to “stop killing young #ENDSARS protesters.”

Pompeo: US' way of life remains 'the envy for the entire world'
In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, during The Atlantic Festival, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Alex Brandon )

“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigeriaGovernment,” she tweeted.

A former president of Chile, who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on Wednesday, also strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 for the Socialist Party of Chile, the first woman to occupy the position.

Michelle Bachelet
Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief continued. “While the authorities have now dissolved SARS and announced a series of inquiries at both Federal and State levels, there have still been few if any charges levelled against its members despite abundant evidence against various members of the squad, as well as members of other security forces and the army.”

At least 12 Nigerian protesters were killed on Tuesday in two locations in the commercial city of Lagos, Amnesty International said on Wednesday following an investigation. About 38 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, the group added.

“An on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International has confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters yesterday at two locations in Lagos. The killings took place in Lekki and Alausa, where thousands were protesting police brutality as part of the #EndSars movement,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group, which has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began on October 8, 2020, said at least 56 people have died across the country since the protest began, with about 38 killed on Tuesday alone.

Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests, Amnesty International added.

It said “evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6:45pm and 9:00pm on Tuesday 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality.”

“Witnesses at the Lekki protest grounds told Amnesty international that solders arrived at about 6:45pm local time on Tuesday evening, and opened fire on #EndSars protesters without warning. Eyewitnesses at Alausa protest ground said they were attacked by a team of soldiers and policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Unit at about 8:00 pm, leaving at least two people dead and one critically injured.”

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the killings, saying “opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences.”

Amnesty International said it received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate, where #EndSARS protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut – a clear attempt to hide evidence.

As in previous cases documented by Amnesty International, some of those killed and injured at both grounds were allegedly taken away by the military.

“These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials. Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families,” said Osai Ojigho.

Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people has been slipping into chaos in the past one week. In the commercial city of Lagos on Tuesday, heavily armed security officers were said to have shot dead dozens of protesters who have been demanding an end to police brutality.

Local reports said there was heavy shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate area in Lagos on Tuesday evening as the protesters defied a government curfew.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Nigerian authorities on Tuesday “turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree.”

The rights group said “on the evening of October 20, 2020, Nigerian army soldiers opened fire at a crowd of protesters in Lagos who were calling for an end to police brutality.”

“Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens,” wrote Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

For more than a week, peaceful protesters in Nigeria have been demanding that the government steps in and ends police brutality. But the government responded with force, triggering more protests and new demands.

Also on Wednesday, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent a petition to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authoritiesmilitary, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

SERAP urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In another statement on Tuesday, SERAP condemned “reports that security agents are shooting at #EndSARS peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos.”

“This must stop immediately,” the group said as videos emerged that the country was slipping into chaos.

SERAP said: “Under the Nigerian constitution, 1999 [as amended] and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right to life and security of the person, the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of everyone, including peaceful protesters.”

“We call on the Nigeria authorities to order a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the reports of shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate by security agents, identify suspected perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice without delay.”

“All the victims must be allowed access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“SERAP calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open investigations into cases of attacks on peaceful protesters in Nigeria in the context of #EndSARS.”

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information that is now publicly available in the country.”

On Friday, Human Rights Watch expressed outrage as security forces continued to respond to overwhelmingly peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence and abuse.

Nationwide protests began on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In response, the police have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing at least four people and wounding many others. Armed thugs have also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.

“People exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform.”

The protests were sparked by a video that surfaced online on October 3, allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state. This generated an outcry on social media, especially Twitter, where the hashtag #EndSARS began trending globally, and led to protests across Nigeria and in other cities around the world.

Responding in part to the protesters’ demands, the government announced on October 11 that the SARS unit would be disbanded. Yet its members will be integrated into other police units following “psychological tests,” and SARS is to be replaced by a Special Weapons and Tactical Team that is to begin training next week. No steps have been taken to hold SARS officers to account for past abuses, or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.

SARS was formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes. Yet since its inception, the unit has allegedly been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion. Many Nigerians feel that the unit has deliberately profiled and targeted young people, especially those with tattoos, dreadlocks, and visible possessions such as phones and laptops. Over the years, Nigerian authorities have repeatedly promised to reform SARS and ensure accountability for abuses by its officers, but with few results.

Although the authorities have now agreed to abolish SARS and take measures to end police brutality, the protests led by young Nigerians have continued. Protesters are calling for more far-reaching reforms and critical action to address police brutality, especially in the wake of attacks against protesters.

On October 10, a young man, Jimoh Isiaka, was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state, media reports and Amnesty International have said. At least two other people – a man and a teenage boy – were killed the following day in protests against Isiaka’s death, based on a Premium Times investigation that included a video purporting to show police officers dragging bodies into an armored personnel carrier after the shooting.

The Oyo state governor confirmed that three people were killed and at least six others injured during protests in the state. The police said in a statement that they only used tear gas to disperse the protesters and denied allegations of any shooting on October 10.

In Abuja, police dispersed protesters on October 11 with tear gas and water cannons. Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who participated in or were in the vicinity of the protests and were badly beaten by officers.

One, a 30-year-old woman, said that at least four police officers beat her with big sticks and batons soon after the police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

“When we saw officers down the road from us had formed a line facing us, we stopped moving and we sat on the ground or knelt down to show them that we were not aggressive,” she said. “But before we knew it, tear gas started flying all over the place and a strong force of water followed for about 10 to 15 minutes nonstop. I had a mask on and with the water hitting my face, I found it very difficult to breathe. They soon started running in our direction. I didn’t run because I shouldn’t have to; I was not doing anything wrong.”

The woman said that one officer began beating her with a stick, and when she tried to ward him off, two others joined in, with a stick and baton. She lay flat on the ground as they continued beating her. Eventually someone who had been observing and filming on the other side of the road came by in his car and shouted at her to get in. As she tried to get in the car, another officer hit her back with a big stick. She said that the beating fractured her skull and she has had dizzy spells since. She has been hospitalized.

Another, a 28-year-old woman, said that she was on her way home from work on October 11 around the Federal Secretariat in Abuja when she saw a crowd of people running in her direction. She also started running but soon stopped to figure out where she was going.

“As soon as the police arrived there and saw me, one asked me what I was doing there, and when I replied that I was on my way back from work, he asked, ‘Which work?’” she said. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain or show identification before others came and started beating me with big sticks. About six officers gathered around me, beating me as I lay on the ground. One even threatened me with a knife; they emptied the contents of my bag all over the floor and smashed my phone before they let me go.”

On October 12, police officers in Surulere, Lagos, opened gunfire to disperse protesters, killing 55-year-old Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, media reported. Human Rights Watch interviewed two protesters and one journalist at the scene. One protester said that the police arrived and opened fire to disperse the protesters when they were close to a police station around Western Avenue. As he and others were running, they realized that a man had been hit by a bullet and went back to where he was. The protesters watched and filmed as a medical team tried to give the man emergency care, but he died. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and has it on file.

Media reports said that Ilohamauzo was a driver stuck in traffic in the vicinity of the protests who came out of his vehicle to urinate when he was struck by a stray bullet.

Police in Surulere claim that Ilohamauzo was killed by a stray bullet from protesters who they say also shot and killed a police officer during an attack on the police station. They arrested three protesters whom they claim were responsible. Videos have since surfaced online, however, that purport to show that the officer fell to the ground after a burst of fire from his colleagues. The protesters were eventually released. Human Rights Watch has not seen any evidence indicating that protesters were armed or firing on the crowd.

The police arrested dozens of protesters, refused some of them access to their lawyers, and only released them following the intervention of senior government officials, including the state governors and the Senate President. There have been reports of police damaging and confiscating the cameras of protesters and journalists. Alleged pro-government thugs have also injured protesters and destroyed property, media reported.

On October 15, the Nigerian army warned “subversive elements and troublemakers” to desist and offered to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order.” The Nigerian army has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters.

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law. Unnecessary use of force to disperse protesters is unlawful. Protesters should instead be protected by the authorities.

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses by the Nigerian police force for years. In a 2010 report, Human Rights Watch cautioned that the long-term failure of the authorities to address abuses by the police would reinforce impunity and lead to more systemic abuses.

“Nigerian authorities can no longer evade the need for serious reform and accountability in the police system,” Ewang said. “They should go beyond words and send a signal that it is no longer business as usual by investigating the attacks on protesters and taking immediate steps to hold officers and others accountable.”

Nigerians in USA to hold ‘mother of all protests’ against police brutality and bad governance in their home country

Nigerians in the United States would hold the ‘mother of all protests’ on Saturday against police brutality and bad governance in their home country.

The peaceful protest, to last at least three hours, would begin at 3 p.m. in Randallstown, Baltimore County, Maryland, United States.

“We want our brothers and sisters in Nigeria to know we are with them in this struggle. We are tired of seeing the blood of innocent citizens on the streets of Nigeria,” some of the organizers said in a joint statement to Today News Africa in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning.

“We are tired of police brutality, bad governance, corruption and joblessness,” they said, adding that it would likely be the “mother of all protests” against police brutality and bad leadership across Africa’s most populous nation.

The attendance is likely to be massive, the organizers said, citing the overwhelming number of phone calls they have been receiving since Monday.

The protest would kick off in front of Randallstown Library on Liberty Road, Baltimore, Maryland.

Protesters were advised to wear face masks and would social distance to keep everyone safe amid the raging coronavirus pandemic around the world.

Anger has been rising across the United States after images surfaced early this week showing security forces in Nigeria responding to peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence.

On Thursday, the Trump administration strongly condemned “the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury.”

“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles. 

“We call on the security services to show maximum restraint and respect fundamental rights and for demonstrators to remain peaceful.  We extend our condolences to the victims of the violence and their families,” he added.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday also condemned the use of force against peaceful protesters in Nigeria on Tuesday, saying the government should engage in peaceful dialogue.

“I am deeply concerned over reports of violence in Lagos and urge the Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the #EndSARS protestors for police reform and an end to corruption,” Bill Clinton tweeted.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian army to “stop killing young #ENDSARS protesters.”

Pompeo: US' way of life remains 'the envy for the entire world'
In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, during The Atlantic Festival, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Alex Brandon )

“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigeriaGovernment,” she tweeted.

A former president of Chile, who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on Wednesday, also strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 for the Socialist Party of Chile, the first woman to occupy the position.

Michelle Bachelet
Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief continued. “While the authorities have now dissolved SARS and announced a series of inquiries at both Federal and State levels, there have still been few if any charges levelled against its members despite abundant evidence against various members of the squad, as well as members of other security forces and the army.”

At least 12 Nigerian protesters were killed on Tuesday in two locations in the commercial city of Lagos, Amnesty International said on Wednesday following an investigation. About 38 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, the group added.

“An on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International has confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters yesterday at two locations in Lagos. The killings took place in Lekki and Alausa, where thousands were protesting police brutality as part of the #EndSars movement,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group, which has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began on October 8, 2020, said at least 56 people have died across the country since the protest began, with about 38 killed on Tuesday alone.

Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests, Amnesty International added.

It said “evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6:45pm and 9:00pm on Tuesday 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality.”

“Witnesses at the Lekki protest grounds told Amnesty international that solders arrived at about 6:45pm local time on Tuesday evening, and opened fire on #EndSars protesters without warning. Eyewitnesses at Alausa protest ground said they were attacked by a team of soldiers and policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Unit at about 8:00 pm, leaving at least two people dead and one critically injured.”

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the killings, saying “opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences.”

Amnesty International said it received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate, where #EndSARS protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut – a clear attempt to hide evidence.

As in previous cases documented by Amnesty International, some of those killed and injured at both grounds were allegedly taken away by the military.

“These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials. Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families,” said Osai Ojigho.

Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people has been slipping into chaos in the past one week. In the commercial city of Lagos on Tuesday, heavily armed security officers were said to have shot dead dozens of protesters who have been demanding an end to police brutality.

Local reports said there was heavy shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate area in Lagos on Tuesday evening as the protesters defied a government curfew.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Nigerian authorities on Tuesday “turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree.”

The rights group said “on the evening of October 20, 2020, Nigerian army soldiers opened fire at a crowd of protesters in Lagos who were calling for an end to police brutality.”

“Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens,” wrote Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

For more than a week, peaceful protesters in Nigeria have been demanding that the government steps in and ends police brutality. But the government responded with force, triggering more protests and new demands.

Also on Wednesday, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent a petition to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authoritiesmilitary, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

SERAP urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In another statement on Tuesday, SERAP condemned “reports that security agents are shooting at #EndSARS peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos.”

“This must stop immediately,” the group said as videos emerged that the country was slipping into chaos.

SERAP said: “Under the Nigerian constitution, 1999 [as amended] and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right to life and security of the person, the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of everyone, including peaceful protesters.”

“We call on the Nigeria authorities to order a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the reports of shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate by security agents, identify suspected perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice without delay.”

“All the victims must be allowed access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“SERAP calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open investigations into cases of attacks on peaceful protesters in Nigeria in the context of #EndSARS.”

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information that is now publicly available in the country.”

On Friday, Human Rights Watch expressed outrage as security forces continued to respond to overwhelmingly peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence and abuse.

Nationwide protests began on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In response, the police have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing at least four people and wounding many others. Armed thugs have also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.

“People exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform.”

The protests were sparked by a video that surfaced online on October 3, allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state. This generated an outcry on social media, especially Twitter, where the hashtag #EndSARS began trending globally, and led to protests across Nigeria and in other cities around the world.

Responding in part to the protesters’ demands, the government announced on October 11 that the SARS unit would be disbanded. Yet its members will be integrated into other police units following “psychological tests,” and SARS is to be replaced by a Special Weapons and Tactical Team that is to begin training next week. No steps have been taken to hold SARS officers to account for past abuses, or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.

SARS was formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes. Yet since its inception, the unit has allegedly been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion. Many Nigerians feel that the unit has deliberately profiled and targeted young people, especially those with tattoos, dreadlocks, and visible possessions such as phones and laptops. Over the years, Nigerian authorities have repeatedly promised to reform SARS and ensure accountability for abuses by its officers, but with few results.

Although the authorities have now agreed to abolish SARS and take measures to end police brutality, the protests led by young Nigerians have continued. Protesters are calling for more far-reaching reforms and critical action to address police brutality, especially in the wake of attacks against protesters.

On October 10, a young man, Jimoh Isiaka, was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state, media reports and Amnesty International have said. At least two other people – a man and a teenage boy – were killed the following day in protests against Isiaka’s death, based on a Premium Times investigation that included a video purporting to show police officers dragging bodies into an armored personnel carrier after the shooting.

The Oyo state governor confirmed that three people were killed and at least six others injured during protests in the state. The police said in a statement that they only used tear gas to disperse the protesters and denied allegations of any shooting on October 10.

In Abuja, police dispersed protesters on October 11 with tear gas and water cannons. Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who participated in or were in the vicinity of the protests and were badly beaten by officers.

One, a 30-year-old woman, said that at least four police officers beat her with big sticks and batons soon after the police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

“When we saw officers down the road from us had formed a line facing us, we stopped moving and we sat on the ground or knelt down to show them that we were not aggressive,” she said. “But before we knew it, tear gas started flying all over the place and a strong force of water followed for about 10 to 15 minutes nonstop. I had a mask on and with the water hitting my face, I found it very difficult to breathe. They soon started running in our direction. I didn’t run because I shouldn’t have to; I was not doing anything wrong.”

The woman said that one officer began beating her with a stick, and when she tried to ward him off, two others joined in, with a stick and baton. She lay flat on the ground as they continued beating her. Eventually someone who had been observing and filming on the other side of the road came by in his car and shouted at her to get in. As she tried to get in the car, another officer hit her back with a big stick. She said that the beating fractured her skull and she has had dizzy spells since. She has been hospitalized.

Another, a 28-year-old woman, said that she was on her way home from work on October 11 around the Federal Secretariat in Abuja when she saw a crowd of people running in her direction. She also started running but soon stopped to figure out where she was going.

“As soon as the police arrived there and saw me, one asked me what I was doing there, and when I replied that I was on my way back from work, he asked, ‘Which work?’” she said. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain or show identification before others came and started beating me with big sticks. About six officers gathered around me, beating me as I lay on the ground. One even threatened me with a knife; they emptied the contents of my bag all over the floor and smashed my phone before they let me go.”

On October 12, police officers in Surulere, Lagos, opened gunfire to disperse protesters, killing 55-year-old Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, media reported. Human Rights Watch interviewed two protesters and one journalist at the scene. One protester said that the police arrived and opened fire to disperse the protesters when they were close to a police station around Western Avenue. As he and others were running, they realized that a man had been hit by a bullet and went back to where he was. The protesters watched and filmed as a medical team tried to give the man emergency care, but he died. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and has it on file.

Media reports said that Ilohamauzo was a driver stuck in traffic in the vicinity of the protests who came out of his vehicle to urinate when he was struck by a stray bullet.

Police in Surulere claim that Ilohamauzo was killed by a stray bullet from protesters who they say also shot and killed a police officer during an attack on the police station. They arrested three protesters whom they claim were responsible. Videos have since surfaced online, however, that purport to show that the officer fell to the ground after a burst of fire from his colleagues. The protesters were eventually released. Human Rights Watch has not seen any evidence indicating that protesters were armed or firing on the crowd.

The police arrested dozens of protesters, refused some of them access to their lawyers, and only released them following the intervention of senior government officials, including the state governors and the Senate President. There have been reports of police damaging and confiscating the cameras of protesters and journalists. Alleged pro-government thugs have also injured protesters and destroyed property, media reported.

On October 15, the Nigerian army warned “subversive elements and troublemakers” to desist and offered to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order.” The Nigerian army has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters.

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law. Unnecessary use of force to disperse protesters is unlawful. Protesters should instead be protected by the authorities.

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses by the Nigerian police force for years. In a 2010 report, Human Rights Watch cautioned that the long-term failure of the authorities to address abuses by the police would reinforce impunity and lead to more systemic abuses.

“Nigerian authorities can no longer evade the need for serious reform and accountability in the police system,” Ewang said. “They should go beyond words and send a signal that it is no longer business as usual by investigating the attacks on protesters and taking immediate steps to hold officers and others accountable.”

U.S. condemns killing of peaceful protesters in Nigeria

The United States on Thursday strongly condemned “the use of excessive force by military forces who fired on unarmed demonstrators in Lagos, causing death and injury.”

“We welcome an immediate investigation into any use of excessive force by members of the security forces. Those involved should be held to account in accordance with Nigerian law,” Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression are essential human rights and core democratic principles. 

“We call on the security services to show maximum restraint and respect fundamental rights and for demonstrators to remain peaceful.  We extend our condolences to the victims of the violence and their families,” he added.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo holds a press conference, in Brussels, Belgium on November 20, 2019. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday also condemned the use of force against peaceful protesters in Nigeria on Tuesday, saying the government should engage in peaceful dialogue.

“I am deeply concerned over reports of violence in Lagos and urge the Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the #EndSARS protestors for police reform and an end to corruption,” Bill Clinton tweeted.

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event for Hillary Clinton at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 2016. Photo: Matt A.J.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian army to “stop killing young #ENDSARS protesters.”

Pompeo: US' way of life remains 'the envy for the entire world'
In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, during The Atlantic Festival, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Alex Brandon )

“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigeriaGovernment,” she tweeted.

A former president of Chile, who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on Wednesday, also strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 for the Socialist Party of Chile, the first woman to occupy the position.

Michelle Bachelet
Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief continued. “While the authorities have now dissolved SARS and announced a series of inquiries at both Federal and State levels, there have still been few if any charges levelled against its members despite abundant evidence against various members of the squad, as well as members of other security forces and the army.”

At least 12 Nigerian protesters were killed on Tuesday in two locations in the commercial city of Lagos, Amnesty International said on Wednesday following an investigation. About 38 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, the group added.

“An on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International has confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters yesterday at two locations in Lagos. The killings took place in Lekki and Alausa, where thousands were protesting police brutality as part of the #EndSars movement,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group, which has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began on October 8, 2020, said at least 56 people have died across the country since the protest began, with about 38 killed on Tuesday alone.

Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests, Amnesty International added.

It said “evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6:45pm and 9:00pm on Tuesday 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality.”

“Witnesses at the Lekki protest grounds told Amnesty international that solders arrived at about 6:45pm local time on Tuesday evening, and opened fire on #EndSars protesters without warning. Eyewitnesses at Alausa protest ground said they were attacked by a team of soldiers and policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Unit at about 8:00 pm, leaving at least two people dead and one critically injured.”

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the killings, saying “opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences.”

Amnesty International said it received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate, where #EndSARS protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut – a clear attempt to hide evidence.

As in previous cases documented by Amnesty International, some of those killed and injured at both grounds were allegedly taken away by the military.

“These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials. Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families,” said Osai Ojigho.

Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people has been slipping into chaos in the past one week. In the commercial city of Lagos on Tuesday, heavily armed security officers were said to have shot dead dozens of protesters who have been demanding an end to police brutality.

Local reports said there was heavy shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate area in Lagos on Tuesday evening as the protesters defied a government curfew.https://www.youtube.com/embed/IR57RAwl-SA?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Nigerian authorities on Tuesday “turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree.”

The rights group said “on the evening of October 20, 2020, Nigerian army soldiers opened fire at a crowd of protesters in Lagos who were calling for an end to police brutality.”

“Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens,” wrote Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

For more than a week, peaceful protesters in Nigeria have been demanding that the government steps in and ends police brutality. But the government responded with force, triggering more protests and new demands.

Also on Wednesday, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent a petition to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authoritiesmilitary, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

SERAP urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In another statement on Tuesday, SERAP condemned “reports that security agents are shooting at #EndSARS peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos.”

“This must stop immediately,” the group said as videos emerged that the country was slipping into chaos.https://www.youtube.com/embed/PdcuVjMaLAs?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1

SERAP said: “Under the Nigerian constitution, 1999 [as amended] and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right to life and security of the person, the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of everyone, including peaceful protesters.”

“We call on the Nigeria authorities to order a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the reports of shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate by security agents, identify suspected perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice without delay.”

“All the victims must be allowed access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“SERAP calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open investigations into cases of attacks on peaceful protesters in Nigeria in the context of #EndSARS.”

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information that is now publicly available in the country.”

On Friday, Human Rights Watch expressed outrage as security forces continued to respond to overwhelmingly peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence and abuse.

Nationwide protests began on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In response, the police have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing at least four people and wounding many others. Armed thugs have also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.

“People exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform.”

The protests were sparked by a video that surfaced online on October 3, allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state. This generated an outcry on social media, especially Twitter, where the hashtag #EndSARS began trending globally, and led to protests across Nigeria and in other cities around the world.

Responding in part to the protesters’ demands, the government announced on October 11 that the SARS unit would be disbanded. Yet its members will be integrated into other police units following “psychological tests,” and SARS is to be replaced by a Special Weapons and Tactical Team that is to begin training next week. No steps have been taken to hold SARS officers to account for past abuses, or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.

SARS was formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes. Yet since its inception, the unit has allegedly been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion. Many Nigerians feel that the unit has deliberately profiled and targeted young people, especially those with tattoos, dreadlocks, and visible possessions such as phones and laptops. Over the years, Nigerian authorities have repeatedly promised to reform SARS and ensure accountability for abuses by its officers, but with few results.

Although the authorities have now agreed to abolish SARS and take measures to end police brutality, the protests led by young Nigerians have continued. Protesters are calling for more far-reaching reforms and critical action to address police brutality, especially in the wake of attacks against protesters.

On October 10, a young man, Jimoh Isiaka, was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state, media reports and Amnesty International have said. At least two other people – a man and a teenage boy – were killed the following day in protests against Isiaka’s death, based on a Premium Times investigation that included a video purporting to show police officers dragging bodies into an armored personnel carrier after the shooting.

The Oyo state governor confirmed that three people were killed and at least six others injured during protests in the state. The police said in a statement that they only used tear gas to disperse the protesters and denied allegations of any shooting on October 10.

In Abuja, police dispersed protesters on October 11 with tear gas and water cannons. Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who participated in or were in the vicinity of the protests and were badly beaten by officers.

One, a 30-year-old woman, said that at least four police officers beat her with big sticks and batons soon after the police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

“When we saw officers down the road from us had formed a line facing us, we stopped moving and we sat on the ground or knelt down to show them that we were not aggressive,” she said. “But before we knew it, tear gas started flying all over the place and a strong force of water followed for about 10 to 15 minutes nonstop. I had a mask on and with the water hitting my face, I found it very difficult to breathe. They soon started running in our direction. I didn’t run because I shouldn’t have to; I was not doing anything wrong.”

The woman said that one officer began beating her with a stick, and when she tried to ward him off, two others joined in, with a stick and baton. She lay flat on the ground as they continued beating her. Eventually someone who had been observing and filming on the other side of the road came by in his car and shouted at her to get in. As she tried to get in the car, another officer hit her back with a big stick. She said that the beating fractured her skull and she has had dizzy spells since. She has been hospitalized.

Another, a 28-year-old woman, said that she was on her way home from work on October 11 around the Federal Secretariat in Abuja when she saw a crowd of people running in her direction. She also started running but soon stopped to figure out where she was going.

“As soon as the police arrived there and saw me, one asked me what I was doing there, and when I replied that I was on my way back from work, he asked, ‘Which work?’” she said. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain or show identification before others came and started beating me with big sticks. About six officers gathered around me, beating me as I lay on the ground. One even threatened me with a knife; they emptied the contents of my bag all over the floor and smashed my phone before they let me go.”

On October 12, police officers in Surulere, Lagos, opened gunfire to disperse protesters, killing 55-year-old Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, media reported. Human Rights Watch interviewed two protesters and one journalist at the scene. One protester said that the police arrived and opened fire to disperse the protesters when they were close to a police station around Western Avenue. As he and others were running, they realized that a man had been hit by a bullet and went back to where he was. The protesters watched and filmed as a medical team tried to give the man emergency care, but he died. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and has it on file.

Media reports said that Ilohamauzo was a driver stuck in traffic in the vicinity of the protests who came out of his vehicle to urinate when he was struck by a stray bullet.

Police in Surulere claim that Ilohamauzo was killed by a stray bullet from protesters who they say also shot and killed a police officer during an attack on the police station. They arrested three protesters whom they claim were responsible. Videos have since surfaced online, however, that purport to show that the officer fell to the ground after a burst of fire from his colleagues. The protesters were eventually released. Human Rights Watch has not seen any evidence indicating that protesters were armed or firing on the crowd.

The police arrested dozens of protesters, refused some of them access to their lawyers, and only released them following the intervention of senior government officials, including the state governors and the Senate President. There have been reports of police damaging and confiscating the cameras of protesters and journalists. Alleged pro-government thugs have also injured protesters and destroyed property, media reported.

On October 15, the Nigerian army warned “subversive elements and troublemakers” to desist and offered to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order.” The Nigerian army has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters.

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law. Unnecessary use of force to disperse protesters is unlawful. Protesters should instead be protected by the authorities.

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses by the Nigerian police force for years. In a 2010 report, Human Rights Watch cautioned that the long-term failure of the authorities to address abuses by the police would reinforce impunity and lead to more systemic abuses.

“Nigerian authorities can no longer evade the need for serious reform and accountability in the police system,” Ewang said. “They should go beyond words and send a signal that it is no longer business as usual by investigating the attacks on protesters and taking immediate steps to hold officers and others accountable.”

Sub-Saharan Africa’s difficult road to recovery

By Abebe Aemro Selassie

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented health and economic crisis for sub-Saharan Africa. Within months, the spread of the virus has jeopardized years of development and decades-long gains against poverty in the region while threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.

Policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa now face the added challenge of rekindling their economies with fewer resources and more difficult choices.

In our latest Regional Economic Outlook, we project -3 percent growth in sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP in 2020, representing the worst outcome on record for the region. The drop will be even larger for economies dependent on tourism and commodity exports. Growth in the region should rebound modestly in 2021 to 3.1 percent, but for many countries, a return to 2019 levels won’t occur until 2022–24.

Countries in the region acted swiftly to protect their people from the worst of the crisis, but lockdown measures came with high economic and social costs. Policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa now face the added challenge of rekindling their economies with fewer resources and more difficult choices.

As the region looks toward the future, uncertainty over the path of the pandemic continues to loom over an enduring recovery.

Confronting policy constraints and hard choices

The top policy priority should be saving lives and protecting livelihoods through health spending and income and liquidity support for households and businesses. Even with limited funds, policymakers acted swiftly with what they had.

However, countries in the region entered the crisis with significantly less fiscal space than they had prior to the global financial crisis of 2008–09. COVID-19 related fiscal support in sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 3 percent of GDP—markedly less than what has been spent in other regions of the world.

Advanced economies have had the space to do “whatever it takes.” In sub-Saharan Africa no such luxury exists, as countries struggle to do “whatever is possible” with their scarce resources.

Limited resources will ultimately force difficult choices.

Fiscal policies needed to boost the economy will have to be balanced against debt sustainability—already a daunting challenge for many countries in the region. The need to support growth through monetary policy will need to be matched against maintaining external stability and longer-term credibility. Financial regulation and supervision measures are needed to address crisis-affected banks and firms but should not compromise longer-term growth.

All the while, efforts to stabilize and grow economies must be weighed against the need to maintain social stability while preparing for sustained and inclusive growth over the long term.

Calling on the global community for support

Without significant additional financial assistance, many sub-Saharan African countries will struggle to simply maintain macroeconomic stability while meeting the basic needs of their populations.

The IMF has taken swift action to cover a significant portion of the region’s needs by providing about $16 billion financing this year alone to 33 countries and immediate debt service relief to 22 of the poorest, most vulnerable sub-Saharan African countries. We are working with countries to put in place governance mechanisms to help ensure that the funds benefit their people as intended.

We have also worked with the G20 to suspend debt service payments to official bilateral creditors and welcome the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative.

But more help is needed. Sub-Saharan Africa faces additional financing needs of $890 billion through 2023. Private financial flows are expected to fill less than half of that need, while current commitments from international financial institutions and bilateral donors will cover only one-quarter of the need. Under that scenario, the region still faces a projected financing gap of $290 billion through 2023.

No country should have to choose between paying their debt or providing food and medicine for their people. To prevent the loss of decades-worth of development gains, the region will need access to more grants, concessional credit, and debt relief.

Looking toward a brighter future

Despite an uncertain outlook, the potential of sub-Saharan Africa and the resourcefulness of its people remain clear. Now is the time for lasting transformational reforms.

Sub-Saharan Africa will find its way back to a path of green, sustainable and inclusive development. The pandemic has presented a historic opportunity to build a better future and the international community has an important role to play.

Fostering better transparency and governance to improve trust in rule of law, strengthen business conditions and encourage external support will be a key element for developing a better future. Transformative domestic reforms to improve revenue mobilization, digitalization, trade integration, competition, social safety nets, and climate-change mitigation will be critical for the region’s resilience, growth and job creation.

Nelson Mandela once said, “may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” The long climb out of this crisis won’t come easy, but the actions and choices of today will be vital for a prosperous and resilient future for sub-Saharan Africa.

Turkmenistan should drop charges and free wrongfully imprisoned lawyer – HRW

Turkmenistan’s authorities should immediately and unconditionally release a lawyer imprisoned on bogus charges that appear to be in retaliation for his alleged ties with activists abroad, 10 human rights organizations said on Thursday, adding that the authorities should quash his conviction.

On September 29, 2020, in a closed trial, a court in Balkanabad sentenced Pygambergeldy Allaberdyev, 48, a lawyer with a government oil and gas production office in the city of Balkanabad, to six years in prison on charges of hooliganism and intentional infliction of moderate bodily harm. Allaberdyev is currently in custody although his precise whereabouts are unknown.

“The trial and charges against Allaberdyev, and the surrounding circumstances, clearly suggest that the case is political,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should release him immediately and annul his conviction.”

The 10 groups are the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Crude Accountability, the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Democratic Civil Union of Turkmenistan, Freedom Files, Human Rights Watch, the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights.

Allaberdyev’s arrest comes amid growing social tension in Turkmenistan and unprecedented protests among Turkmen living abroad.

Turkmenistan has an extremely repressive government. The country is utterly cut off from any independent human rights scrutiny. The authorities tolerate no dissent and subject people it suspects of disloyalty to surveillance, arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment on trumped up charges following unfair trials. Torture and incommunicado detention are a serious concern. Dozens of people remain victims of enforced disappearances.

On September 5, police in Balkanabad arrested Allaberdyev for allegedly getting into a fight with another man. That day, when Allaberdyev and a friend were leaving a grocery store, the man attacked him and tried to provoke a conflict by arguing with Allaberdyev and grabbing him by the collar.

The police arrived quickly. The other man accused Allaberdyev of instigating the conflict, and then left. The police arrested Allaberdyev and took him to the police station, where the other man appeared with his arm bandaged. The police told Allaberdyev that he had injured the man’s arm and rejected Allaberdyev’s request to see the medical reports documenting the man’s alleged injury. Allaberdyev denied the allegations. A source close to the case said that officers of the Ministry of National Security from Ashgabat appeared and questioned Allaberdyev about alleged connections with activists involved in the Turkmen protest movement abroad. Allaberdyev denied these allegations.

The groups expressed serious concern about the lack of due process in Allaberdyev’s detention and trial. On September 5, police interrogated Allaberdyev in the absence of any legal representation. The authorities refused to allow his family to visit and rebuffed their attempts to deliver food and clothing parcels for him. The lawyer Allaberdyev’s family hired was granted access to him only on September 8. The authorities repeatedly rejected the lawyer’s requests for copies of the case materials.

On September 14, Allaberdyev’s wife, Satlykgul Allaberdyeva, following unsuccessful attempts to get any precise and credible official information about her husband’s arrest, requested written information about the official allegations against Allaberdyev and details surrounding his arrest from the Balkan provincial prosecutor’s office.

On September 16, the office referred the request to the head of the Balkanabad city police department. She has received no response.

On September 24, a police investigator refused to provide one of Allaberdyev’s relatives any information about the formal charges against Allaberdyev, saying that he “can only share the case documents with the lawyer.” A source close to the case said the relative immediately arranged a phone conversation between Allaberdyev’s lawyer and the investigator. After a brief phone conversation, the lawyer, citing health problems, withdrew from the case.

The family tried unsuccessfully to hire another lawyer. Lawyers they approached refused to take on the case, most likely out of concern for government reprisals. The source said that one lawyer told them that “The case is political and is under the control of Ashgabat. Any lawyer [who takes on the case] may have problems.”

The groups also received credible reports that Allaberdyev was under surveillance the week before his arrest.

The Turkmen authorities have in the past used fake administrative hooliganism charges to retaliate against perceived critics.

Allaberdyev’s trial on September 29 was closed to his relatives and the public. The witnesses initially invited to testify were never called in to the courtroom. During the trial, Allaberdyev refused the services of a government-appointed lawyer. In light of the total lack of transparency and accountability in Turkmenistan’s criminal justice system, the institution of government-appointed lawyers cannot ensure effective and adequate legal representation, the groups said.

Because Allaberdyev does not have a lawyer and his family is not allowed to speak or visit with him, as well as authorities’ complete refusal to provide them any information on the case, the family has had difficulty getting official information about his case. On October 13, staff of the Balkanabad city court denied a request of Allaberdyev’s wife for a copy of the court ruling. The staff told her that her husband received the court decision and that she has no right to it. Under Turkmen law, only defendants, victims, civil plaintiffs, and their lawyers may receive copies of court rulings.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkmenistan is a party, protects the rights of individuals to freedom of opinion, expression, association, and assembly. Turkmenistan is also bound under the ICCPR to respect the right to a fair trial.

Turkmenistan’s international partners, in particular the United States, the European Union (EU) and EU member states should press Turkmenistan to free Allaberdyev immediately and quash his baseless conviction, the groups said. They should also press Turkmen authorities to stop harassing people on mere suspicion of connections or interests in the activities of critics abroad, and to refrain from persecuting and intimidating Turkmen citizens at home or abroad in retaliation for their peaceful activism.

“By targeting Allaberdyev for alleged links to Turkmen activists’ movement abroad and prosecuting him on bogus charges, the Turkmen government is demonstrating its complete disrespect for basic rights and freedoms,” said Tadzhigul Begmedova, director of the Turkmenistan Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “Turkmenistan’s international partners should remind the authorities about their binding international obligations and send a clear signal that the continued crackdown would lead to serious consequences.”

Myanmar and Bangladesh should ensure Rohingya children’s right to education, Rights group says

Governments participating in the October 22, 2020 fundraising conference for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis should insist that Myanmar and Bangladesh ensure Rohingya children’s right to education, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday in a letter to the conference hosts. The majority of Rohingya children both in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and in refugee camps in Bangladesh are barred from formal education.

“This entire generation of Rohingya children is being deprived of education and there is no end in sight to the status quo of gross discrimination in both Myanmar and Bangladesh,” said Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Donor governments should demand a paradigm shift to fulfill this basic human right of quality education, with the full involvement of the Rohingya community.”

The US, UK, EU, and the UN refugee agency are hosting the donors’ conference with the aim of closing the $500 million funding gap in a humanitarian needs plan budgeted at $1 billion. Most of those resources will be committed to support the Rohingya in Bangladesh.

Education programs have been further restricted or shut down entirely in Rohingya detention camps in Myanmar and in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh due to Covid-19 related closures, with limited distance learning alternatives. But even if existing programs were fully funded and reopened, the vast majority of Rohingya children would still be denied access to formal, accredited education or secondary school, Human Rights Watch said.

Donor governments should demand the Myanmar authorities lift barriers to Rohingya children’s access to education inside the camps and villages in Rakhine State, and press Myanmar to accredit formal education in the Myanmar curriculum for refugee children in Bangladesh.

Donor governments should insist that Bangladesh urgently lift restrictions on Rohingya refugee children’s ability to enroll in formal, accredited education, and to complete secondary education. Bangladesh does not allow Rohingya children to study the Bangladesh curriculum but has greenlit a “pilot” project to teach the Myanmar curriculum. Bangladesh and humanitarian groups working with Rohingya refugees should urgently develop plans to scale up the Myanmar curriculum to all children, and implement the core humanitarian principle that refugee communities play a leading role in education programming.

Myanmar

In Myanmar, about 600,000 Rohingya remain in Rakhine State, confined by the Myanmar government in camps and villages under conditions that amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid, persecution, and severe deprivation of liberty.

About 65,000 Rohingya children are detained in camps, where they are mainly provided, at best, with only basic instruction in “temporary learning centers.” Access to secondary education is limited to a single government school with 600 students, only two teachers, and four volunteer instructors. Rohingya students were expelled and barred from the last accessible university, in Sittwe, in 2012.

“In Myanmar’s Rakhine state, children and their parents are effectively locked down in villages and detention camps to which humanitarian access is severely restricted, and for most children, access to education is an unfulfilled dream,” Van Esveld said. “The international community should pressure the Myanmar government to give these Rohingya children a real future, not indefinite confinement.” 

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, none of the nearly 400,000 school-age Rohingya refugee children currently have access to certified, formal primary or secondary education, or to university or college. Bangladesh government policy also bars formal education, including in refugee camps and at public and private schools, to Rohingya refugees who entered in the 1990s or before, and to their children born in Bangladesh.

Since mid-2019, Bangladesh authorities have allowed humanitarian groups to provide younger children with a “learning competency framework approach,” but this is not formal or accredited and includes only a few years of lessons.

In January, Bangladesh approved a “pilot” program to allow 10,000 children to study the formal Myanmar curriculum, with the assumption that they would eventually return to Myanmar. This is a potentially significant positive first step, but there is no public information as to whether Myanmar will accredit this education or Bangladesh will certify the students’ progress, or when the program will be scaled up to reach the other 390,000 Rohingya children.

On August 24, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen announced that Bangladesh will “ensure access [to education for] Rohingya children according to [the] Myanmar curriculum” and that a “Myanmar Curriculum Pilot” had been adopted under the Joint Response Plan. Donors should ensure that their education aid supports access for all Rohingya refugee children to formal education.

There are virtually no training or vocational programs available in Bangladesh for Rohingya youth who have aged out of available education programs. Bangladesh authorities are building barbed-wire fencing around the refugee camps, citing concerns about the potential deterioration of the security situation, but for Rohingya youth who fall into the age range most at risk of criminal exploitation, the authorities have essentially blocked any education that would provide them with the skills to contribute to their community.

“Affording Rohingya refugee children the right to education will be critical to enable them to build productive lives and eventually return home to Myanmar,” Van Esveld said. “Bangladesh should expand its ‘pilot program’ to reach all Rohingya children with formal, certified education.”

While conditions in the refugee camps remain dire, Bangladesh has spent substantial resources to develop de facto detention facilities on a remote island, Bhasan Char, where it plans to transfer 100,000 Rohingya from the camps. Despite promises, the government has not allowed the UN to assess the habitability of the island and determine whether the refugees’ rights will be protected. Authorities are currently holding more than 300 Rohingya on the island, including at least 33 children who are denied any education whatsoever, ignoring their pleas to be reunited with their families back in the refugee camps.

Donors should not provide any funding for Bangladesh’s activities on Bhasan Char unless UN humanitarian experts are provided unfettered access to the island at times of their choosing and conclude that the island is safe for voluntary relocation. Bangladesh has refused to allow independent UN experts to conduct an independent research assessment of the island. Rohingya refugees currently held at Bhasan Char should be allowed immediately to rejoin their families in Cox’s Bazar.

“The denial of education to Rohingya children is a key aspect of their persecution in Myanmar, and it is undermining their futures even in exile,” Van Esveld said. “Donor governments need to ensure that their support to Myanmar and Bangladesh helps to end these massive human rights abuses and that Rohingya children get the education they need.” 

Lebanon bungles domestic blast investigation

A domestic investigation into the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port on August 4, 2020 has failed to yield any credible results more than two months later, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. Political interference coupled with long-standing failings of the judicial system have made a credible and impartial domestic investigation seemingly impossible.

The International Support Group for Lebanon, meeting next week, should urge Lebanese authorities to invite the United Nations to conduct an independent inquiry to determine the causes of and responsibility for the explosion.

“Everyone in Beirut has had their life turned upside down by the catastrophic explosion that devastated half the city, and they deserve justice for the disaster inflicted on them,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Only an independent, international investigation will uncover the truth about the blast. The International Support Group for Lebanon should not play along with the Lebanese authorities’ pretense that they are able to conduct their own credible investigation.”

On August 10, the Lebanese government referred the Beirut explosion to the Judicial Council, a special court with no appeals process. The judge leading the investigation was appointed in an opaque process shrouded in allegations of political interference, raising serious concerns about the independence of the process.

While foreign investigators – including about 50 French forensic police officers and gendarmes and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation – have participated in the ongoing domestic investigations at the invitation of the Lebanese authorities, their involvement does not cure the fundamental flaws with the current approach. These foreign experts’ role and their ability to speak publicly about their findings or to criticize attempts to undermine their work are unclear. France and the United States should clarify their role and mandate, and make public any attempts to obstruct justice, Human Rights Watch said.

As of October 13, local media reported that 25 people had been arrested in relation to the case and 30 had been charged. Lebanese authorities have failed to detail the evidence and charges against these individuals, and it is not clear whether they were afforded due process. Not a single minister, former or sitting, has been charged.

In August, 30 UN experts publicly laid out benchmarks for a credible inquiry, noting that it should be “protected from undue influence,” “integrate a gender lens,” “grant victims and their relatives effective access to the investigative process,” and “be given a strong and broad mandate to effectively probe any systemic failures of the Lebanese authorities.” But the domestic investigation into the Beirut blast has failed to meet either international standards for due process or the benchmarks the UN experts identified. Instead, the investigation has centered around administrative port and customs officials, raising concerns that political officials credibly implicated in the blast will escape accountability.

“The responsibility for the Beirut explosion extends far beyond port and customs officials,” Majzoub said. “Any investigation that claims to be impartial would look into the corruption and mismanagement permeating the entire political system, which created the conditions that made the Beirut blast possible.”

Following the explosion, officials traded blame over who was responsible. Court records and official correspondence leaked to the media indicate that many high-level officials, including the president, security officials, and members of the judiciary, were aware of the dangerous stockpile of ammonium nitrate at the port but failed to take action. Reuters quoted an unnamed official source saying that initial investigations “indicate years of inaction and negligence” over the storage of the highly explosive ammonium nitrate.

The domestic investigation’s lack of independence and transparency has led to a widespread loss of public faith in the process, prompting many victims and their families to call for an international investigationHuman Rights Watch, as well as other human rights groups including Amnesty International, have said there should be an international inquiry. Lebanese officials have rejected these calls, and President Michel Aoun described any such investigation as a “waste of time.”

There have been two fires in the Beirut port since the explosion, on September 8 and September 10, prompting many allegations of tampering with the crime scene. The head of the Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, told AFP that he was alarmed by the fires, calling them “unacceptable” and added that “preserving the (blast) crime scene was the first thing we asked” of the investigation.

In 2018, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the “political pressure reportedly exerted on the Lebanese judiciary, particularly in the appointment of key prosecutors and investigating magistrates, and about allegations that politicians use their influence to protect supporters from prosecution.” These structural weaknesses in the Lebanese system remain obstacles to delivering justice in the current context.

“The Lebanese authorities’ failings over the past two months have shown that an international investigation is the only avenue for the people of Lebanon to get the answers and the justice that they deserve for the Beirut explosion,” Majzoub said. “But it has also underscored the importance and urgency of addressing the structural weaknesses preventing Lebanon’s judiciary from independently and impartially delivering justice.”

Egypt executes 49 people in 10 days

Egyptian authorities executed 15 men convicted for alleged involvement in three cases of political violence as well as two women and 25 men convicted in criminal cases between October 3 and 13, 2020, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The organization said Egyptian authorities should immediately halt executions, and re-try those sentenced to death in grossly unfair trials.

Thirteen of the 15 men charged with political violence had been held in Cairo’s Scorpion Prison. Their executions followed a suspicious incident inside Scorpion’s death row ward on September 23 in which Interior Ministry forces killed four prisoners after those prisoners killed four security personnel. Authorities alleged the prisoners were trying to escape.

“Egypt’s mass executions of scores of people in a matter of days is outrageous,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The systematic absence of fair trials in Egypt, especially in political cases, makes every death sentence a violation of the right to life.”

The government typically does not announce executions, or even inform the prisoner’s family. On October 13, the pro-government Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper published the names of eight prisoners executed in the Maximum-Security Prison in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, including a woman. On October 6, pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said authorities in Cairo Isti’naf Prison carried out 11 executions, including a woman, convicted in criminal cases. Al-Watan reported on October 3 that authorities executed eight prisoners and on October 8 another seven in Alexandria, in murder and rape cases.

The independent Al-Shehab Center for Human Rights published on October 7 the names of 15 people it said authorities had executed on October 3. Ten had been convicted in the South Giza Case 3455 of 2014, known as the Ajnad Masr (Soldiers of Egypt) case; three in the North Giza Case 4804 of 2013, known as the Kerdasa case; and two in the East Alexandria Case 6300 of 2013, known as the Alexandria Library case.

The Kerdasa and Alexandria Library cases stem from violent events coinciding with the August 14, 2013 violent dispersal of the largely peaceful Rab’a sit-in protesting the army’s removal of President Mohamed Morsy, a day in which security forces probably killed over 1,000 protesters.

The Kerdasa case involved violent protests and an armed attack by a mob on the Kerdasa police station, killing its warden and 12 other Interior Ministry officers and soldiers, and mutilating an officer’s body. A terrorism court sentenced 183 out of 188 defendants in a grossly unfair mass trial. The Cassation Court, Egypt’s highest appeal court, overturned the ruling in February 2016 and ordered a retrial before a different terrorism court, which in July 2017 sentenced 20 to death, 80 to life in prison, acquitted 21, and sentenced the rest to long prison terms. The Cassation Court upheld these sentences in September 2018. Seventeen of the 20 sentenced to death remained on death row. Nine leading Egyptian human rights organizations said in a 2018 statement that authorities ignored basic fair trial guarantees, including access to legal counsel and the need to establish individual criminal responsibility.

In the Alexandria Library case, authorities charged 71 people following violent protests near the library and killings of 16 people, including an officer and two soldiers, in different incidents. In September 2015, a criminal court in Alexandria sentenced three defendants to death, one of them in absentia, and the rest to prison. The Cassation Court upheld the death sentences in July 2017 and acquitted four defendants. Human Rights Watch reviewed 66 pages of the case file comprising the indictment and the evidence, mainly unsubstantiated allegations by security officers with scant material evidence that two executed, Yasser Shokr and Yasser al-Abasiery, were responsible for the killings.

In the Ajnad Masr case, authorities charged about 45 defendants of involvement in armed attacks by Ajnad Masr, an extremist armed group, which claimed responsibility for several attacks in 2014 and 2015. In December 2017, a Giza terrorism court sentenced 13 to death, others to prison terms, and acquitted 5. In May 2019, the Cassation Court upheld the sentences. Three people from this case remain on death row.

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has become one of the top 10 countries for executions and death sentences. Those arrested for alleged political violence frequently face a host of abuses including enforced disappearances, torture to extract confessions, and no access to lawyers. In an examination of 28 death sentence cases since 2016, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights found that authorities had forcibly disappeared 198 people, and 212 said they had been tortured. The majority of those sentenced to death were convicted in military or terrorism court trials that do not meet fair trial standards.

Authorities routinely add dozens, sometimes hundreds, of defendants to a case without justification. Mass trials, which became the norm after 2013 in political cases, do not allow sufficient time to present a defense or to establish individual criminal responsibility.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances. In 2017, Human Rights Watch said that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and other officials should issue a moratorium on the death penalty in view of the sharp rise in the number of death sentences and the failure to pass a comprehensive transitional justice law.

The 13 executed in the Ajnad Masr and Kerdasa cases on October 3, 2020 were being held in Scorpion Prison, where the suspicious killings had occurred.

On September 23, pro-government news media, citing unnamed security sources, reported that Interior Ministry forces had killed four death row inmates as they tried to escape the Scorpion prison, killing three officers and injuring another officer and a soldier, who died the next day. Defense and Interior Ministry officials, including Interior Minister General Mahmoud Tawfik, visited the prison a few hours later, but the government released no official statement. Media reported the names of the inmates killed, including three whose death sentences the Cassation Court upheld in July.

Lawyers, families of inmates, and former prisoners cast doubt on the “prison escape” story on social media. Authorities had imposed a blanket ban on visits to Scorpion since May 2018 and deprived prisoners of exercise and medical care. The death row ward where the incident happened housed an estimated 25 inmates, a lawyer told Human Rights Watch. The lawyer, who spoke with relatives of two inmates, said that the four inmates killed “took by surprise” the officers who had come to routinely inspect their cell and “slaughtered” them using sharp tools. The lawyer said inmates have the capability to improvise sharp objects.

Following the killings, the four inmates cheered loudly, the lawyer said, adding that inmates in other cells heard them and saw blood in the corridor. Shortly afterward security forces came and gunshots were heard. The lawyer said that inmates in other cells believe the reinforced security personnel quickly took control and killed the four prisoners.

The independent rights group We Record published a similar account based on information from five witnesses. An activist with the group told Human Rights Watch that a person who saw the bodies of the four inmates said they had numerous gunshots to the head and chest.

Scorpion Prison, officially Maximum Security Prison 992, is highly secure, one of seven prisons inside Cairo’s Tora Prison Complex and where authorities have placed many senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Islamic State (also known as ISIS) suspects, and other high-profile prisoners. Even if an individual managed to get outside Scorpion’s heavily armed high walls, he would have to pass several kilometers inside the Tora Complex to reach the outer gates.

The lawyer in touch with families and the activist, both outside Egypt, told Human Rights Watch that they feared the executions on October 3 were in retaliation for the killing of the officers, and could have eliminated witnesses.

Egypt has had a pattern of judicial and suspicious extrajudicial killings following attacks on security forces or civilians in recent years, Human Rights Watch said. Several officials including President al-Sisi have spoken of “revenge” rather than law enforcement to justify executions.

Following the incident, the Prison Administration Authority conducted a nationwide prison inspection campaign, which prisoners call tagreeda, (stripping), seizing most of the prisoners’ possessions, including purchased blankets and clothes, as well as hygiene tools, radios, and mattresses. A prisoner and families of inmates in three other prisons in the Tora Prison Complex told Human Rights Watch they have had such “inspections” since the incident.

One prisoner and another’s relative said that prisoners in Tora Istiqbal Prison have undertaken a hunger strike. The independent Mada Masr site reported that hundreds had joined since October 9 to protest the intensive searches and confiscations.

“The pattern of Egyptian authorities executing death row inmates following attacks on security forces makes halting executions even more urgent,” Stork said.

Sub-Saharan Africa faces difficult road to recovery amid COVID-19 economic fallout, IMF says in latest economic outlook

Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a difficult road to recovery amid COVID-19 economic fallout, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its in latest 2020 economic outlook released on Thursday.

IMF projects that in 2020, economic activity in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to contract by 3.0 percent, but then recover by 3.1 percent in 2021. This represents a drop in real per capita income of 4.6 percent over 2020-21, which is larger than in other regions.

The outlook is subject to significant downside risks, particularly regarding the path of the pandemic, the resilience of the region’s health systems, and the availability of external financing.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is contending with an unprecedented health and economic crisis,” stressed Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of the IMF’s African Department.

He said: “In just a few months, this crisis has jeopardized years of hard-won region’s development gains and upended the lives and livelihoods of millions. The onset of the pandemic was delayed in sub- Saharan Africa, and infection rates have been relatively low compared to other parts of the world.

“However, the resurgence of new cases in many advanced economies and the specter of repeated outbreaks across the region suggest that the pandemic will likely remain a very real concern for some time to come.

“Nonetheless, amid high economic and social costs, African countries are now cautiously starting to reopen their economies and are looking for policies to restart growth. With the imposition of lockdowns, regional activity dropped sharply during the second quarter of 2020, but with a loosening of containment measures, higher commodity prices, and easing financial conditions, there have been some tentative signs of a recovery in the second half of the year.

“Overall, the region is projected to contract by 3.0 percent in 2020, the worst outlook on record. Tourism-dependent economies faced the largest impact, while commodity exporting countries have also been hit hard. Growth in more diversified economies will slow significantly, but in many cases will still be positive in 2020.

“Looking forward, regional growth is forecast at 3.1 percent in 2021. This is a smaller expansion than expected in much of the rest of the world, partly reflecting sub-Saharan

Africa’s relatively limited policy space within which to sustain a fiscal expansion. Key drivers of next year’s growth will include an improvement in exports and commodity prices as the world economy recovers, along with a recovery in both private consumption and investment.

“The current outlook is subject to greater-than-usual uncertainty with regard to the persistence of the COVID-19 shock, the availability of external financial support, and the development of an ef f ective, affordable, and trusted vaccine.”

Against this backdrop, Mr. Selassie pointed to a number of policy priorities going forward.

“Where the pandemic continues to linger, the priority remains to save lives and protect livelihoods. For countries where the pandemic is under greater control, limited resources will mean that policy makers aiming to rekindle their economies will face some difficult choices. Both fiscal and monetary policy will have to balance the need to boost the economy against the need for debt sustainability, external stability, and longer-term credibility. Financial regulation and supervision will have to help crisis-affected banks and firms, without compromising the financial system’s ability to support longer-term growth. And these efforts must also be balanced against the need to maintain social stability while simultaneously preparing the ground for sustained and inclusive growth over the long term.

“Navigating such a complex policy challenge will not be easy and will require continued external support. Indeed, without significant assistance, many countries will struggle to simply maintain macroeconomic stability while meeting the basic needs of their population. In this context, the IMF has moved swiftly and disbursed about US$17 billion so far in 2020—which is about 12 times more than we typically disburse each year—to help cover a significant portion of the region’s needs and to catalyze additional support from the international community.

“But looking ahead, sub-Saharan Africa faces significant financing gaps. If private financial inflows remain below their pre-crisis levels—and even taking into account existing commitments from international financial institutions and official bilateral creditors—the sub- Saharan Africa could face a gap in the order of $290 billion over 2020-23. This is important, as a higher financing gap could force countries to adopt a more abrupt fiscal adjustment, which in turn would result in a weaker recovery.

“Countries must also play their part—governance reforms will not only improve trust in the rule of law and improve business conditions, but also encourage external support.

“Despite the lingering effects of the crisis, the potential of the region and the resourcefulness of its people remain intact, and tapping this potential will be vital if the region is to find its way back to a path of sustainable and inclusive development. In this context, the need for transf ormative reforms to promote resilience, lift medium-term growth and create the millions of jobs needed to absorb new entrants into labor markets is more urgent than ever. Priority reforms are in the areas of revenue mobilization, digitalization, trade integration, competition, transparency and governance, and climate-change mitigation.”

Bill Clinton condemns killing of peaceful protesters in Nigeria

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on Wednesday condemned the use of force against peaceful protesters in Nigeria on Tuesday, saying the government should engage in peaceful dialogue.

“I am deeply concerned over reports of violence in Lagos and urge the Nigerian government to engage in peaceful dialogue with the #EndSARS protestors for police reform and an end to corruption,” Bill Clinton tweeted.

Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also on Tuesday called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian army to “stop killing young #ENDSARS protesters.”

Pompeo: US' way of life remains 'the envy for the entire world'
In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, file photo, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks with Jeffrey Goldberg, editor in chief of The Atlantic, during The Atlantic Festival, in Washington. ( AP Photo/Alex Brandon )

“I’m calling on @mbuhari and the @hqnigerianarmy to stop killing young #EndSARS protesters. #StopNigeriaGovernment,” she tweeted.

A former president of Chile, who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on Wednesday, also strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 for the Socialist Party of Chile, the first woman to occupy the position.

Michelle Bachelet
Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief continued. “While the authorities have now dissolved SARS and announced a series of inquiries at both Federal and State levels, there have still been few if any charges levelled against its members despite abundant evidence against various members of the squad, as well as members of other security forces and the army.”

At least 12 Nigerian protesters were killed on Tuesday in two locations in the commercial city of Lagos, Amnesty International said on Wednesday following an investigation. About 38 people were killed nationwide on Tuesday, the group added.

“An on-the-ground investigation by Amnesty International has confirmed that the Nigerian army and police killed at least 12 peaceful protesters yesterday at two locations in Lagos. The killings took place in Lekki and Alausa, where thousands were protesting police brutality as part of the #EndSars movement,” Amnesty International said.

The rights group, which has been monitoring developments across Nigeria since the #EndSars protest began on October 8, 2020, said at least 56 people have died across the country since the protest began, with about 38 killed on Tuesday alone.

Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters. In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests, Amnesty International added.

It said “evidence gathered from eyewitnesses, video footage and hospital reports confirm that between 6:45pm and 9:00pm on Tuesday 20 October, the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality.”

“Witnesses at the Lekki protest grounds told Amnesty international that solders arrived at about 6:45pm local time on Tuesday evening, and opened fire on #EndSars protesters without warning. Eyewitnesses at Alausa protest ground said they were attacked by a team of soldiers and policemen from the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) Unit at about 8:00 pm, leaving at least two people dead and one critically injured.”

Osai Ojigho, Country Director of Amnesty International Nigeria condemned the killings, saying “opening fire on peaceful protesters is a blatant violation of people’s rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  Soldiers clearly had one intention – to kill without consequences.”

Amnesty International said it received reports that shortly before the shootings, CCTV cameras at the Lekki toll gate, where #EndSARS protesters had been camped for two weeks, were removed by government officials and the electricity was cut – a clear attempt to hide evidence.

As in previous cases documented by Amnesty International, some of those killed and injured at both grounds were allegedly taken away by the military.

“These shootings clearly amount to extrajudicial executions. There must be an immediate investigation and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable through fair trials. Authorities must ensure access to justice and effective remedies for the victims and their families,” said Osai Ojigho.

Africa’s most populous country with more than 200 million people has been slipping into chaos in the past one week. In the commercial city of Lagos on Tuesday, heavily armed security officers were said to have shot dead dozens of protesters who have been demanding an end to police brutality.

Local reports said there was heavy shooting at the Lekki Toll Gate area in Lagos on Tuesday evening as the protesters defied a government curfew.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Nigerian authorities on Tuesday “turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree.”

The rights group said “on the evening of October 20, 2020, Nigerian army soldiers opened fire at a crowd of protesters in Lagos who were calling for an end to police brutality.”

“Nigerian authorities turned a peaceful protest against police brutality into a shooting spree, showing the ugly depths they are willing to go to suppress the voices of citizens,” wrote Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Ewang called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately withdraw the military from the streets, and identify and prosecute officers responsible for or complicit in any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”

For more than a week, peaceful protesters in Nigeria have been demanding that the government steps in and ends police brutality. But the government responded with force, triggering more protests and new demands.

Also on Wednesday, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent a petition to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authoritiesmilitary, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

SERAP urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In another statement on Tuesday, SERAP condemned “reports that security agents are shooting at #EndSARS peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll gate in Lagos.”

“This must stop immediately,” the group said as videos emerged that the country was slipping into chaos.

SERAP said: “Under the Nigerian constitution, 1999 [as amended] and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party, the authorities are obligated to respect and protect the right to life and security of the person, the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly of everyone, including peaceful protesters.”

“We call on the Nigeria authorities to order a prompt, independent and impartial inquiry into the reports of shooting of #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki Toll gate by security agents, identify suspected perpetrators and ensure that they are brought to justice without delay.”

“All the victims must be allowed access to justice and effective remedies, including adequate compensation, satisfaction and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“SERAP calls on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open investigations into cases of attacks on peaceful protesters in Nigeria in the context of #EndSARS.”

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information that is now publicly available in the country.”

On Friday, Human Rights Watch expressed outrage as security forces continued to respond to overwhelmingly peaceful protests against police brutality with more violence and abuse.

Nationwide protests began on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). In response, the police have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, killing at least four people and wounding many others. Armed thugs have also disrupted protests and attacked protesters.

“People exercising their right to protest and calling for an end to police brutality are themselves being brutalized and harassed by those who should protect them,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “This underscores the importance of the protesters’ demands and the culture of impunity across the policing system, which is in dire need of reform.”

The protests were sparked by a video that surfaced online on October 3, allegedly showing a SARS officer shooting a young man in Delta state. This generated an outcry on social media, especially Twitter, where the hashtag #EndSARS began trending globally, and led to protests across Nigeria and in other cities around the world.

Responding in part to the protesters’ demands, the government announced on October 11 that the SARS unit would be disbanded. Yet its members will be integrated into other police units following “psychological tests,” and SARS is to be replaced by a Special Weapons and Tactical Team that is to begin training next week. No steps have been taken to hold SARS officers to account for past abuses, or to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the recent crackdown on protesters.

SARS was formed in 1992 to combat armed robbery and other serious crimes. Yet since its inception, the unit has allegedly been implicated in widespread human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, and extortion. Many Nigerians feel that the unit has deliberately profiled and targeted young people, especially those with tattoos, dreadlocks, and visible possessions such as phones and laptops. Over the years, Nigerian authorities have repeatedly promised to reform SARS and ensure accountability for abuses by its officers, but with few results.

Although the authorities have now agreed to abolish SARS and take measures to end police brutality, the protests led by young Nigerians have continued. Protesters are calling for more far-reaching reforms and critical action to address police brutality, especially in the wake of attacks against protesters.

On October 10, a young man, Jimoh Isiaka, was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state, media reports and Amnesty International have said. At least two other people – a man and a teenage boy – were killed the following day in protests against Isiaka’s death, based on a Premium Times investigation that included a video purporting to show police officers dragging bodies into an armored personnel carrier after the shooting.

The Oyo state governor confirmed that three people were killed and at least six others injured during protests in the state. The police said in a statement that they only used tear gas to disperse the protesters and denied allegations of any shooting on October 10.

In Abuja, police dispersed protesters on October 11 with tear gas and water cannons. Human Rights Watch interviewed three people who participated in or were in the vicinity of the protests and were badly beaten by officers.

One, a 30-year-old woman, said that at least four police officers beat her with big sticks and batons soon after the police fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters.

“When we saw officers down the road from us had formed a line facing us, we stopped moving and we sat on the ground or knelt down to show them that we were not aggressive,” she said. “But before we knew it, tear gas started flying all over the place and a strong force of water followed for about 10 to 15 minutes nonstop. I had a mask on and with the water hitting my face, I found it very difficult to breathe. They soon started running in our direction. I didn’t run because I shouldn’t have to; I was not doing anything wrong.”

The woman said that one officer began beating her with a stick, and when she tried to ward him off, two others joined in, with a stick and baton. She lay flat on the ground as they continued beating her. Eventually someone who had been observing and filming on the other side of the road came by in his car and shouted at her to get in. As she tried to get in the car, another officer hit her back with a big stick. She said that the beating fractured her skull and she has had dizzy spells since. She has been hospitalized.

Another, a 28-year-old woman, said that she was on her way home from work on October 11 around the Federal Secretariat in Abuja when she saw a crowd of people running in her direction. She also started running but soon stopped to figure out where she was going.

“As soon as the police arrived there and saw me, one asked me what I was doing there, and when I replied that I was on my way back from work, he asked, ‘Which work?’” she said. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain or show identification before others came and started beating me with big sticks. About six officers gathered around me, beating me as I lay on the ground. One even threatened me with a knife; they emptied the contents of my bag all over the floor and smashed my phone before they let me go.”

On October 12, police officers in Surulere, Lagos, opened gunfire to disperse protesters, killing 55-year-old Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo, media reported. Human Rights Watch interviewed two protesters and one journalist at the scene. One protester said that the police arrived and opened fire to disperse the protesters when they were close to a police station around Western Avenue. As he and others were running, they realized that a man had been hit by a bullet and went back to where he was. The protesters watched and filmed as a medical team tried to give the man emergency care, but he died. Human Rights Watch reviewed the footage and has it on file.

Media reports said that Ilohamauzo was a driver stuck in traffic in the vicinity of the protests who came out of his vehicle to urinate when he was struck by a stray bullet.

Police in Surulere claim that Ilohamauzo was killed by a stray bullet from protesters who they say also shot and killed a police officer during an attack on the police station. They arrested three protesters whom they claim were responsible. Videos have since surfaced online, however, that purport to show that the officer fell to the ground after a burst of fire from his colleagues. The protesters were eventually released. Human Rights Watch has not seen any evidence indicating that protesters were armed or firing on the crowd.

The police arrested dozens of protesters, refused some of them access to their lawyers, and only released them following the intervention of senior government officials, including the state governors and the Senate President. There have been reports of police damaging and confiscating the cameras of protesters and journalists. Alleged pro-government thugs have also injured protesters and destroyed property, media reported.

On October 15, the Nigerian army warned “subversive elements and troublemakers” to desist and offered to “support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order.” The Nigerian army has also been implicated in human rights abuses, including the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters.

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution and international human rights law. Unnecessary use of force to disperse protesters is unlawful. Protesters should instead be protected by the authorities.

Human Rights Watch has documented human rights abuses by the Nigerian police force for years. In a 2010 report, Human Rights Watch cautioned that the long-term failure of the authorities to address abuses by the police would reinforce impunity and lead to more systemic abuses.

“Nigerian authorities can no longer evade the need for serious reform and accountability in the police system,” Ewang said. “They should go beyond words and send a signal that it is no longer business as usual by investigating the attacks on protesters and taking immediate steps to hold officers and others accountable.”

Former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet condemns killing of peaceful protesters in Nigeria

A former president of Chile, who is now the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, on Wednesday, strongly condemned the use of excessive and disproportionate force by Nigerian armed forces in Lagos on Tuesday evening. She called on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent steps to deal decisively with the underlying problem of persistent violations committed by the security forces, and make a far stronger effort to bring police and army personnel guilty of crimes against civilians to justice.

Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria served as President of Chile from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018 for the Socialist Party of Chile, the first woman to occupy the position.

“While the number of casualties of yesterday’s shooting at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos is still not clear, there is little doubt that this was a case of excessive use of force, resulting in unlawful killings with live ammunition, by Nigerian armed forces,” Bachelet said. “Reports that CCTV cameras and lighting were deliberately disabled prior to the shooting are even more disturbing as, if confirmed, they suggest this deplorable attack on peaceful protestors was premeditated, planned and coordinated.”

“Nigeria was already at boiling point before this shooting because of the revelations about years of unchecked violence, including alleged killings, rape, extortion and other violations, by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS),” the UN Human Rights Chief continued. “While the authorities have now dissolved SARS and announced a series of inquiries at both Federal and State levels, there have still been few if any charges levelled against its members despite abundant evidence against various members of the squad, as well as members of other security forces and the army.”

Many Nigerians appear not to trust the inquiries and other measures that have been announced by the authorities, and have continued to take to the streets in several cities to protest.  “I appreciate that the Government has taken a number of measures to address the protestors’ demands,” Bachelet said. “However, the immediate creation of another elite police SWAT team to replace the SARS — without first addressing some of the root causes of police violence and putting in place sufficient safeguards to prevent future violations — has eroded the public’s trust even further. This latest terrible event in Lagos is like wantonly adding fuel to a fire that was already starting to rage out of control.”

Bachelet said the way to restore trust and bring back peace to the streets of Nigeria is for the authorities to take immediate concrete steps to show they are genuinely committed to tackling impunity, after years of inaction.

“There need to be immediate, independent, transparent and thorough investigations, not just into last night’s killings, but also into all the previous violations committed by security forces,” Bachelet said. “Those appointed to carry out such investigations must not only be independent and impartial but must be widely perceived as such. And, where sufficient evidence already exists to warrant charges, immediate suspension of officers – including senior officers — suspected of committing serious crimes, should take place long before the conclusion of such investigations.”

“After so many years of reported violations that have not been adequately dealt with, there also needs to be a root and branch re-examination of the entire security sector, and of its civilian oversight,” the High Commissioner added. “This should include a full-scale review of rules of engagement and training systems and methods.”

Bachelet also called for immediate investigations into reports of violent and provocative attacks on peaceful protestors by unidentified groups armed with cudgels, cutlasses, sticks or guns, in some cases apparently with the overt backing of police or other security forces.

“Nigerians, like everyone else, have a fundamental right to peaceful assembly and protest,” Bachelet said.  “The Government has a responsibility to take positive measures to ensure the realization of this right, including deterring others who intend to prevent them from protesting peacefully. The world’s attention is now focused sharply on how Nigeria’s Government and security forces react over the coming days and weeks.”

The High Commissioner urged the authorities to grant reparations to the victims and to open extensive dialogue with youth leaders, students and other groups who have been prominent among the protestors.

“In a population with such a young median age, it is important to listen to the grievances of the younger generation and make an effort to address the multiple problems they face, which include — but are far from confined to — police brutality and violations.”

Use of brute force on peaceful protesters in Nigeria is an aberration: Group

The Nigerian Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has decried the use of brute force on some #ENDSARS protesters at Lekki tollgate, Lagos, on Tuesday

In a release by the Chairman of CACOL, Mr. Debo Adeniran and signed by its Director of Administration and Programmes Mr. Tola Oresanwo, he stated, “The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, received the news on the repression and shooting of some protesters who were at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos in continuation of their ENDSARS Protest which has been going on for some days now”.

For the umpteenth time, we are reiterating our position of disappointment over the use of brute force in a civil matter like this. The excessive use of armed military men who are trained and saddled with the protection of the country’s territorial integrity for confronting domestic issues like civilian protests is unacceptable, barbaric, uncivilized and savagery.

The attack on peaceful protesters just on the basis of publicly decrying the brutality of the police and other socioeconomic situations in the country and for calling on far reaching reforms that could give necessary reliefs to majority of Nigerians today and the unborn generations in future speak volume on the type of democracy being operated in this clime. The sensible option would have been to engage these protesters in dialogue and to amicably resolve all the burning issues raised by them.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the rights to protest, associate and assemble for either individual or collective interest(s) is a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined and recognized by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and other international legislations and protocols , once they are not effected under any violence or coercion. These rights are not qualified or deflated by place or location, especially where such location is a public space like the Lekki Toll Plaza in Lagos.

In saner climes, protests have been held by their citizens, severally at the Capitol or CIA, FBI Headquarters in United States of America (USA), United Kingdom, and other democracies in the world.

“Where the protesters continue with their protest, the onus is on the government to look for peaceful avenues to end the protest and not to turn the state into a Hobbesian State of nature where live is said to be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. It is therefore tantamount to worsening an already tensed situation by dragging armed military men to the scenes of the protests in Lekki, Alausa and other locations to confront unarmed and defenseless protesters contrary to the rule of law and known tenets of democratic order”.

The CACOL Boss added, “While we are using this medium to advise the protesters to remain peaceful and calm, not to engage in any action that will further lead to loss of lives and properties, and to be open to negotiations. They also need to repose confidence in any or some of their colleagues that will follow the implementation of their demands to the letter. All of them cannot be leaders, there must be the first amongst equals, after all if they take over the government everybody cannot be president at the same time. They can also help the government on workable timelines and deliverables for the implementation of their demands”.

“We also want to remind the government that power belongs to the people and whosoever empowers can also disempower, hence the need to heed the call of these Nigerians at this trying time.

We call on the president to address the people now on measures to bring sanity to the current situation. The Nigerian security apparati should be rightly and correctly guided of their operations, nuances and limitations under a democracy, so as not to resort to any overzealous act or repressive attitudes over legitimate and peaceful agitations under any guise”.

Sixty-five organizations call for immediate release of Iwacu journalists in Burundi

Sixty-five organizations on Thursday called for the immediate and unconditional release of Iwacu journalists in Burundi, exactly a year after they were convicted on charges against state security.

The Iwacu journalists Agnès Ndirubusa, Christine Kamikazi, Egide Harerimana and Térence Mpozenzi were simply doing their job, the 65 organizations said in a statement, adding that “their continued detention on baseless charges is a stark reminder that, despite a recent change in leadership, the Burundian government has little tolerance for independent journalism and free speech.”

On October 22, 2019, the four journalists were arrested along with their driver Adolphe Masabarakiza as they went to report on clashes between the security forces and an armed group in Bubanza province.

Although they had informed the provincial authorities of their plan to travel to the area, they were arrested on arrival and later accused of threatening internal state security. However, during the trial, the prosecution presented no evidence of the journalists having any contact with the armed group.

Although they were charged with complicity in threatening the internal security of the state, Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi were ultimately convicted of attempting to commit the crime, a lesser criminal offense.

Their lawyers say that they were not informed of the change to the charge prior to the verdict or allowed to defend themselves against it in court, violating fair trial standards.

All four were sentenced to two and a half years in prison and fined one million Burundian francs (approximately 525 USD). Masabarakiza, who had been provisionally released in November 2019, was acquitted. Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi appealed their conviction, but in its 4 June decision the Ntahangwa Court of Appeal upheld the verdict.

The 65 organizations said the message sent by the courts “is an attempt to intimidate and threaten other journalists from doing their work and reporting on what is happening inside the country.”

“The conviction and continued detention of the four journalists also runs counter to Burundi’s constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression, as well as regional and international obligations in accordance with Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is particularly inconsistent with the African Commission’s 2019 Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, which specifically provides that states shall take measures to prevent “arbitrary arrest and detention” of journalists.     

Iwacu is one of the few remaining independent media houses operational in Burundi. Hundreds of journalists and human rights defenders have fled the country since the start of the political crisis in 2015 and those still working in the country often face threats and harassment. Releasing Ndirubusa, Kamikazi, Harerimana and Mpozenzi would be an important first step towards reopening civic space and recognizing the contribution of reliable media reporting in ensuring access to information for all Burundians,” they added.

Bukola Saraki: I have watched with horror the use of force against the Lekki #EndSARS protesters

I have watched with horror the use of force against the Lekki #EndSARS protesters. My heart bleeds for the country. It is sad and disheartening that this is happening. These are peaceful youth protesting to express legitimate concerns. It is unacceptable for any Government to turn its weapons on its own young people. What has happened in Lekki tonight is nothing but a massacre.

This shooting must stop immediately and the security agents that carried out this exercise should be ordered to stop. No life of any Nigerian youth taking part in a peaceful protest deserves to be taken.

This is not the Nigeria that we hope to leave for the next generation. Our young people are the future of our country. This is not the Nigeria we have worked for, strived for, prayed for, and have sacrificed for.

Dialogue is the only logical option in the current situation and not violence. Dialogue may take a longer time to work and it may appear frustrating. However, as a leading member in the comity of nations, the violent silencing of protesting youths cannot be an option for Nigeria.

I appeal to the government to put an end to this shooting of protesters by security agents. We need to exercise great patience, restraint and compassion in handling the demands of these youth.

Killing our defenceless youth is wrong — regardless of the circumstance. Killing our children our youth is also killing our future as a nation. We must take a quick walk back from this. We must do all that is necessary to protect and engage with the youth on all issues. Let the shooting stop and let fruitful dialogue commence.

Mr. President, this is what needs to be done. I appeal to you to do the right thing.

End.

Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON

Immediate Past President of the Senate and Chair,

African Politiea Institute (TAPI)

Rage as Trump admin plans to categorize Amnesty International as antisemitic, meaning hostile to or prejudiced against Jewish people

Amnesty International on Wednesday night described as ‘baseless’ plans by the Donald Trump administration to categorize the reputable human rights group and several other non-governmental organizations as antisemitic, meaning hostile to or prejudiced against Jewish people.

The U.S. State Department, under Secretary Mike Pompeo’s initiative, also plans to call on governments worldwide to stop funding the non-governmental organizations it would name.

Amnesty International USA does not receive any government funding, from the U.S. government or any other government, the organization said in a statement received by Today News Africa in Washington DC on Wednesday night, adding that “Amnesty International Israel continues work in the country, despite hindrances and attacks on its ability to conduct robust campaigns.”

Around the world and in the United States, Amnesty International is known for fighting for the freedom of the oppressed, the voiceless and the weak, but the categorization if followed through appears to be an attempt to weaken the organization at and abroad.

Responding the the wild accusations on Wednesday night, Bob Goodfellow, the Interim Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said “Secretary Pompeo’s baseless accusations are yet another attempt to silence and intimidate international human rights organizations.”

Goodfellow added: “The administration is spreading misinformation and working to undermine those who are working to protect human rights. Amnesty International USA is deeply committed to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate worldwide, and will continue to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied. We vigorously contest any allegation of antisemitism.

“Our human rights work, as well as the broader human rights movement today, exist because of the actions taken by the international community in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Nations came together and said, ‘never again.’ Never again would atrocities such as those committed in the Holocaust occur because governments would now recognize that all human beings have rights. 

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the founding document of our work and our guiding light, came together precisely because of the  atrocities committed against  the Jewish people. These accusations are an affront to anyone who believes in the human rights movement.

“We advocate for the release of Jewish prisoners of conscience, condemn acts of terrorism against Jewish communities, and call on governments to condemn neo-Nazi and other hate groups across the U.S. and throughout the world. We are deeply concerned that conflating antisemitism with legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy is detrimental not only to ending serious crimes under international law, but also to efforts to address and end antisemitism – and it may encourage other countries to make such baseless claims. 

“Amnesty International USA criticizes governments and policies based on international human rights law and standards. As such, we condemn settlements because they are illegal and cause great harm to Palestinians. Our research has continuously shown a close connection between Israeli settlements and the violation of human rights of Palestinians in every aspect of their lives. The Amnesty International movement is independent of any ideology, government, creed or religion. Our investigations and reports into human rights violations committed by Israel are not disproportionate to other countries in the Middle East, such as Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iraq, Iran and Bahrain.

“We know that the governments of many countries, including the United States’, would rather not have their human rights violations exposed. It is concerning to see Secretary Pompeo join the list of people and governments that use accusations of antisemitism to try to sweep human rights abuses under the rug.

“Any process aimed at a just and sustainable peace in Israel and the State of Palestine must include an end to systematic human rights abuses, dismantling of illegal Israeli settlements, and justice and reparation for victims of crimes under international law. This is what international norms demand, whether Secretary Pompeo likes it or not.”

Warlords accused of horrendous crimes continue to walk free in Central African Republic

 Amnesty International is outraged that warlords accused of horrendous crimes, including unlawful killings and sexual violence, continue to walk free in Central African Republic, two years after the inauguration of the country’s Special Criminal Court (SCC).

Despite a few investigations and trials in the past few years, many perpetrators of serious human rights violations and abuses have not been brought to justice, Amnesty International said in its new report, ‘’On trial, these warlords lowered their eyes’’: The Central African Republic’s challenging pursuit of justice.

 The report found that the SCC’s progress has been hampered by deficiencies in the Court’s operationalization and a lack of transparency, while CAR’s national justice system is too weak to address the vast scale of the violations. It also highlights the remaining efforts to be made to ensure trials before ordinary courts and the SCC are fair.

“Civilians have borne the brunt of successive waves of violence and armed conflict since 2002 in CAR. Thousands have been killed, raped, and over half a million people are still displaced. Impunity is an affront for the victims and a blank check for perpetrators of crimes. The inauguration of the SCC provided a glimmer of hope for victims, but progress is slow. Ten cases are currently before investigating judges, and the SCC has refused to disclose the identities of the 21 individuals arrested following its investigations, without providing reasons for such refusal,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International West and Central Africa Director.

“CAR’s national justice system is severely under-resourced. With armed groups including ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka still carrying out regular attacks against civilians, it is clear that much more needs to be done to end the cycle of impunity that continues to cause so much suffering.”

The Special Criminal Court is an UN-backed hybrid tribunal mandated to investigate and prosecute, for a renewable five-year period, crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed in CAR since January 2003. It was established by a June 2015 law and was inaugurated on 22 October 2018. It is complementary to the mandate of the ICC and the ordinary courts of CAR.

At least 21 individuals have been arrested in the context of these investigations and are currently in pre-trial detention. Three of those in detention were arrested following killings committed in Paoua (North West) in May 2019.  Nine individuals were arrested on 19 May 2020, in connection with killings perpetrated in Ndele (North East) in 2019 and 2020; and nine were arrested on 25 May 2020 in relation to attacks against civilians committed in Bambouti, Obo and Zemio (South East) in 2020. 

While investigations started in 2019 and trials are expected to start in 2021, the operationalisation of the SCC is facing some serious challenges, impeding its proper functioning. Among these challenges are the recruitment of international judges and the delay in the establishment of the Court’s legal aid system, Amnesty International said.

Volunteer in AstraZeneca coronavirus clinical trial dies

A volunteer for AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine trial has died, Brazilian authorities said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. It was not immediately clear whether the man received the vaccine or had been part of a placebo group.

The Wall Street Journal cited local reports in Brazil as saying the volunteer was a man in his 20s from Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil health officials said an investigation into the death is ongoing, but the trial will continue.

Reuters quoted an anonymous source as saying that if the victim had received the vaccine, the trial would have been stopped.

Brazil has reported 5.2 million cases of coronavirus and the second highest number of coronavirus related deaths in the world after the United States.

Last June, Brazilian authorities announced a deal to purchase 100 million doses of the potential coronavirus vaccine should it prove to be safe and effective.

The country’s President Jair Bolsonaro, himself contracted coronavirus around the same time and recovered.

#EndSARS: Senate urges Intervention of all Nigerians to halt protests

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The leadership of the Senate on Wednesday called on all well meaning Nigerians to intervene in the ongoing demonstrations across the country with a view to halting the #EndSARS protests.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan made the call after he and the other principal officers of the Senate received security briefings on the protests being staged in some parts of the country.

The Inspector-General of Police, Adamu Mohammed and the Director General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf magaji Bichi were in attendance.

Shortly after the meeting that held in the office of the Senate President, Lawan told reporters that the time had come for the protests to stop and appealed to all Nigerian political and religious leaders to stand up with a view to prevailing on the protesters to allow peace a chance.

“I want to thank all Nigerians for the prayers and I want to urge opinion leaders and political leaders across the spectrum that this is of utmost concern to all of us.

“All leaders, regardless of their political affiliations, regardless of our religious passuasion, regardless of our geo-political locations, we must stand up and ensure that these protests come to an end because the protests are now taking a different dimension from the originally conceived protest by those who meant well by asking for SARS to be disbanded.

“Those that are going about protesting have shown clearly that they have no affiliation, no relationship whatsoever with the original #EndSARS protest.

“I will take this opportunity to urge all well meaning Nigerians that this is our country, that everyone must show interest in its survival and in its peace.

“This is a country that we have to ensure that it works for all of us. People have the right to say this is not the way they want to go once it is a legitimate way to express themselves through peaceful protest but we must never allow ourselves to be taken in the wrong direction of violent protest like we have witnessed in some parts of the country,” Lawan said.

The Senate President told reporters that the leadership of the Senate invited the IGP and the DG of DSS for a briefing on the current situation of the #EndSARS demonstration going on in many parts of the country.

Lawan said “this is for the leadership of the Senate to be properly informed of the situation. But before then, we have been reading in the media, both Electronics and Print what has been going on.

“We have been talking, discussing, consulting with our colleagues in the Senate, in the National Assembly generally and people on the Executive side of government and outside of government on how best we can approach this issue, this challenge, so that we are able to bring it to an end.

“The Senate took two motions so far with respect to the #EndSARS protest. One motion was sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu two weeks ago and the Senate passed resolutions, of course, supporting legitimate and peaceful protest to #EndSARS and urged the security agencies to provide safe environment to protesters.

“The second motion was taken yesterday(Tuesday), sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi and of course, co- sponsored by all the Senators in the Senate. Far reaching resolutions were taken and we are absolutely in total support if the legitimate, constitutionally guaranteed right if citizens to peacefully protest in any issue they feel strongly about.

“We are however not in support of any violent protest by anyone. We believe that the #EndSARS protest started very genuinely and those who started it are Patriots who wanted to see change and change was initiated immediately.

“The President himself, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a presidential speech in his remarks to say that SARS was disbanded. And of course, subsequently, five demands of the protesters were accepted by the government generally because we believe that those demands are legitimate and we will continue to insist that the Federal Government must implement those demands it accepted from the protesters.

“But we equally believe that the time has come for the protest to stop. This is necessary for the government to be able to implement those demands that it accepted from the protesters.

Also in attendance were: Deputy Senate president, Ovie OmO-Agege, Senate Leader Yahaya A. Abdullahi, Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji U Kalu, Deputy Senate Leader, Prof. Robert A. Boroffice, Senate Minority Whip, Philip T. Aduda, Senate Chairman on National Security And Intelligence, Ibrahim Gobir, Senate chairman Police Affairs, Halliru Jika.