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Press briefing note on Mozambique and Nigeria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 29 April 2016
Subjects:    (1)  Mozambique
                   (2)  Nigeria

(1)   Mozambique

We have received worrying information about ongoing armed clashes in Mozambique between national security forces and members of Renamo, the former rebel group which became the main opposition party at the end of the 16-year civil war in 1992. Human rights violations, including cases of enforced disappearances and summary executions, have also been reported.

Tensions have been rising in Mozambique over the past few months, after Renamo rejected the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections and announced its intention to seize power in six of the country's 11 provinces. Military operations by the army against Renamo have mainly affected Tete Province, but clashes seem to be spreading to other provinces, including Sofala, Zambezia, Nampula and Manica. According to UNHCR, some 10,000 people have left the country since December 2015.

Security forces have been accused of summary executions, looting, destruction of property, rape, ill-treatment, and other human rights violations. According to reliable sources, at least 14 local Renamo officials have been killed or abducted by unidentified individuals or groups since the beginning of the year. On 20 January, there was an assassination attempt on the Renamo Secretary General and MP Manuel Bissopo.

Attacks against police and military forces have also been attributed to Renamo. Members of Renamo are also reported to have committed human rights abuses and violations against civilians perceived to be associated with the ruling party, Frelimo, or to be cooperating with security forces. They have also been accused of carrying out sniper attacks on some roads, which have resulted in a number of casualties, including civilians.  

The lack of accountability for past human rights abuses and violations seems to be a key component of the deteriorating situation. We are particularly concerned about the killing on 1 April of Public Prosecutor Marcelino Vilankulo, and about the lack of progress in the investigation into the March 2015 murder of Gilles Cistac, a law professor who had denounced electoral fraud.

On a separate note, we are also alarmed by recent reports that human rights defenders calling for public demonstrations in favour of accountability and transparency in the management of public resources have been harassed and threatened.

The announcement by the Head of the Police on 25 April that any public protest will be repressed raises serious concerns. Ahead of demonstrations called for today, tomorrow and next week, we urge the Government to fulfil its obligation to guarantee that all citizens may exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. We also call on law enforcement officials to show utmost restraint when maintaining public order and to comply at all times with international human rights obligations and international standards on policing*.

* The conduct of law enforcement officials is addressed by a number of specific international standards and codes, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

(2)   Nigeria

We have received reports of a deadly attack early Monday morning against several communities in the southern State of Enugu, Nigeria, by armed Fulani herdsmen and associated militia.

Although the increasing competition for natural resources between farming and herders communities has led to many incidents in the past, Monday’s attack appears to be among the most serious in recent years. The exact number of victims remains unknown but local sources say that at least 40 people may have been killed during what appears as a well-prepared raid carried out by some 500 men armed with guns, bows and machetes in the Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area. Many houses and a church were also set on fire by attackers.

We welcome the announcement by the Nigerian authorities that they have launched an investigation and also dispatched additional security forces to the area. However we are very concerned by reports that advance warning of a potential attack in the area had been received by the authorities, and was not effectively acted on.

We are also worried by the complete impunity enjoyed so far by perpetrators of previous attacks, including ones in Benue State in February, which reportedly led to the destruction of entire villages in 13 different Local Government Areas, killed more than 300 people and displaced over 20,000 others.

We call on the Nigerian Government to guarantee the security of all its citizens in full respect of international and national human rights standards and to ensure that justice is done for the very serious human rights violations which have been taking place. Holding perpetrators to account is all the more crucial as some communities under threat are now suggesting taking justice into their own hands.

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org),  Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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