ARTICLE 19: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 October 2021:
ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the security forces’ crackdown on the assembly of the Islamic Movement (IMN) in Nigeria also known as the Shiites that reportedly led to the death of at least eight people and police arresting at least 57 others on 28 September in Abuja.
On Tuesday 28 September, members of the banned IMN group were peacefully gathering to commemorate Arbenz, 40 years since the murder of Imam Hussein’, a religious event largely celebrated in Muslim countries. Media and human rights organisation reported that at least 8 people were killed and at least 57 people were arrested by the Police in Abuja.
The spokesperson of the group claimed that security forces shot dead eight Shiites. Nigeria Police denied those allegations of killings, claiming to have arrested 57 of them and recovered petrol bombs and bags of stones. The IMN group was banned in 2019 by a court qualifying their activities as “acts of terrorism and illegality.”
Findings from our interviews with local witnesses confirm no violence from the demonstrators. ARTICLE 19 wants to remind that an unauthorised protest is not necessarily illegal and that the evidence so far available clearly shows that the police did not need to use such extreme force against this gathering.
“The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and belief are enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution. The Nigerian authorities must end the pattern of repression of peaceful assemblies through the excessive use of force against demonstrators. They must ensure their security forces refrain from using unnecessary and excessive firearms to repress civilian assemblies. The authorities must further ensure prompt, thorough and independent investigations into the cases of excessive use of force and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” said Bulakali Alfred Nkuru, Deputy Regional Director of ARTICE 19 West Africa.
Ensuring that the fundamental rights to freedom of association and peaceful assembly are respected and protected for all Nigerians without distinction of any kind and in accordance with its Constitution is among recommendations Nigeria accepted during its last UPR review. Nigeria should, therefore, make it a priority for all State security agencies.
Nigerian authorities must respect the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and belief enshrined in Sections 38 and 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria as well as Articles 21 and 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Nigeria is a party.
The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states: In the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary.
The principle of non-discrimination of The United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less-Lethal Weapons in Law clearly stipulates that : In performing their duties law enforcement officials shall not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, disability, property or birth, or other similar criteria.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the Nigerian authorities to conduct independent investigations to bring all perpetrators to justice. In addition, the police should ensure that everyone can exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protect those assembling from attack. Furthermore, all persons arrested simply for their beliefs should be released by the authorities.