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Briefing note on Nigeria

9 September 2011

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subject: Nigeria

We are concerned about the renewed violence which has flared up in Nigeria's "Middle Belt" in recent weeks causing death, injury and destruction. Reports suggest that up to 70 people have been killed since the beginning of August, in ethnic and religious violence in the area.

Ethnic and religious divisions have affected the Middle Belt region, particularly in and around Jos, for many years now and a cycle of violence has emerged in which each incident almost invariably provokes deadly reprisal attacks. The High Commissioner has previously called for a concerted effort to tackle the underlying causes of such repeated violent outbreaks. Such underlying causes include discrimination, poverty and land disputes.

We encourage the authorities at national and local levels to take effective preventative measures against such violence, including by curbing hate-speech and working with civil society, including human rights NGOs, religious leaders and academic institutions, to attempt reconciliation between the various communities. It is of utmost importance that justice is done and is seen to be done by prosecuting the alleged perpetrators of violence and ensuring remedies for victims and their families.

We are also concerned about the activities of Boko Haram, whose tactics have included attacks on civilians, security forces and government institutions. The group has claimed responsibility for the recent bombing of the UN building – yet another deadly and cowardly attack.

We stress that security forces must also act in full compliance with the law, in an even-handed manner, when responding to outbreaks of violence in the country -- otherwise they risk making the situation worse.

In response to a request for details of recent violence and killings:

According to reports:
- From early to mid-August, 10 people were killed in a number of clashes between Christian and Muslim youths and the military in Jos. At least two more were hacked to death, and four others seriously wounded in a village near Jos.
- On 29 August, Christian youths allegedly attacked Muslims going to prayer in Jos. Unofficial reports suggest that 13 were killed, 106 wounded and that a lot of damage was done to property. Then, on 1 September, at least 23 were reportedly killed in clashes between Christian and Muslim youths. At this point, it is not clear whether or not this was a revenge attack linked to the earlier incident.
- On 4 September, a family of eight was hacked to death, and seven more people were reported killed that evening in attacks by youths on a village near Jos.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) and Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org).

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