28 March 2007
The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions issued the following statement today:
“The Government of Nigeria must make good on its commitment to end extrajudicial executions by the police” says Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Unfortunately, it seems like business as usual with the Nigerian police continuing to get away with murder”, he observes.
Alston visited Nigeria in June and July 2005 and met with senior federal government officials, three state governors, representatives of civil society and many others. While his report identified significant problems, the immediate response was encouraging. Indeed, in August 2005, President Obasanjo acknowledged that extrajudicial executions are widespread and made a clear commitment to rooting out and punishing those responsible. And meaningful steps were taken in response to the so-called “Apo 6” case of extrajudicial executions by the police.
But Alston says that a report that he presented to the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, March 27 indicates that, “Patterns of human rights violation that I witnessed in 2005 continue today.”
One case included in his report concerns allegations that in August 2006 four individuals were shot by police officers in Umuahia in Abia State. The police claimed that the four men were suspected armed robbers and that they were killed in a shoot-out. Twelve other suspects, including a 13 year old boy, were detained during the same raid and were transferred to the Abia State police headquarters. On 10 August at 9 am, the police reportedly brought them out into the grounds of the Abia State police headquarters and made them sit on the ground in full view of journalists and other spectators. Reports indicate that some of the suspects were displaying gun shot wounds. On Friday 11 August, the dead bodies of the twelve suspected armed robbers were seen dumped outside the morgue at a government hospital. Sources have reported that the bodies were brought in by the police. The police public relations officer in charge of the Abia State Police Command reportedly said to the media that he was not aware of the deaths and that he thought the suspects were still being interrogated.
The Government of Nigeria responded to Alston’s inquiries regarding the case with a letter stating the in a “fierce exchange of gunfire, three of the armed robbery suspects died on the spot while nine others sustained various degrees of injury from the shootout. Before they could be given medical attention, the remaining nine suspects, who survived the shootout died as a result of the injuries they sustained.” But Alston’s report notes that, while he appreciates the information provided by the Government, its rejection of the allegations lacked “adequate substantiation”.
“With a case like this, I feel like we’re seeing the Apo 6 and Enugu 6 cases all over again,” says Alston. “The police investigate themselves, give the public an implausible story and expect that no one will dare stand up to them.”
Alston’s report also deals with a case in which he received information that on 29 June 2006 Shuaybu Yahaya and Sule Mai Tukwane were sentenced to be stoned to death for sodomy by the Gwarzo upper Sharia court, Kano State. In a letter to the Government, Alston said, “I call upon the Federal Government to underscore the fact that the imposition of the death penalty for offences such as sodomy is unconstitutional.” But his report indicates that the Government ignored his letter.
Philip Alston was appointed as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 13 July 2004. In 2006, the Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the Human Rights Council, and Alston now reports to the Council.
For further information on the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, see: http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/executions/ http://www.extrajudicialexecutions.org/
The report that Alston presented to the Human Rights Council on March 27 is UN Doc. No. A/HRC/4/20, and communications with governments are included in A/HRC/4/20/Add.1.
For use of the information media; not an official record