UN Commissioner for Human Rights urged to call Special Session on Jos

A civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay asking her to “use your good offices and position to urgently call or facilitate the holding of a special session of the UN Human Rights Council to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Jos, Plateau State of Nigeria.”

In the petition dated 13 January 2011 and signed by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, the group said that, “the holding of a special session on Jos would contribute to a speedy end to the human rights crisis and violence, and to peace and greater respect for human rights of the citizens in the area.

The Human Rights Council cannot be silent when innocent civilians are caught up in violence such as the one going on in Jos. The international community must strive to deliver justice to victims of human rights violations wherever they occur and ensure that those found guilty of such crimes are held accountable for their actions.”

“The holding of a special session on Jos will be consistent with the practice of the Human Rights Council regarding its previous special sessions on the Occupied Palestinian Territories ; Lebanon ; Darfur; Myanmar ; the Democratic Republic of the Congo ; the Global Food Crisis and the Global Economic and Financial Crises,” the group further added.

“Nigeria is a member of the Human Rights Council, and has ratified several UN human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” the group also said.

The group also said that it “believes that it is the failure of the Nigerian Government to exercise due diligence that have resulted in the violations of human rights of citizens in Jos. Due diligence obligation requires the Nigerian Government to undertake measures to prevent abuses by state and non-state actors where possible, investigate violations that occur, prosecute the perpetrators as appropriate, and provide redress for victims.”

The group said that, “The Government of Nigeria has international legal obligations to respect the right to life; the right to security of the person; the right to freedom of residence; including not to be forcibly displaced; the right to property; the right to adequate housing; the right to adequate food and the right to water; and freedom from cruel and inhuman treatment. All of these internationally recognized human rights have been repeatedly violated in Jos on a widespread scale.”   The group said that, “According to our information, gunmen this week raided two rural communities, killing 18 of the residents.

But unofficial reports put the death toll at 23 with most of the victims identified as women and children. The attack took place in Wareng village in Riyom Local Council of the state. The victims were allegedly machetted to death. There are also reports of wanton destruction of life and property in Jos/Bukuru metropolis and its environs.”

“The unlawful killing of innocent citizens and destruction of property is coming against the background of allegations of unlawful killing of at least 326 people and perpetration of other crimes under international law during the violence in January 2010 in Jos; and the reports that the military and police used excessive force against both Christians and Muslims in responding to the violence.

Since then, no fewer than 80 persons have been confirmed killed and 109 wounded in the bombing and reprisal attacks which took place in Jos on Christmas eve.  Also, security agencies have reportedly discovered an area in Nasarawa Gwom where some persons were engaged in manufacturing of local bombs,” the group also said.

“As usual, the government has promised to bring perpetrators to justice but like similar promises made in the past, these promises will count for nothing. Successive governments have failed to implement the country’s international legal obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of the people of Jos by persistently failing to deter and prevent recurring outbreaks of violence, and by failing to effectively investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators”, the group further said.

The group asked Ms Pillay to convene or facilitate the holding of a special session of the UN Human Rights Council to:

1. Address the responsibility of the Nigerian Government with respect to allegations of serious human rights violations committed in Jos in the context of the on-going violence in the city

2. Ask the Nigerian Government to ensure a better and more secured environment for Nigerians, including those in Jos

3. Ask the Nigerian Government to provide effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy to victims of human rights violations in the context of the on-going violence in Jos

4. Ask the Nigerian Government to provide restitution, compensation or both, as warranted, for damages resulting from the serious violations of the human rights highlighted above.

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