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Amnesty is often at odds with Nigerian government

In our series of letters from African journalists, novelist and writer Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani explores the constant war of words between the Nigerian military and the rights group Amnesty International.

If the Nigerian military were to draw up a list of its enemies, Amnesty International might feature near the top, perhaps a name or two below Islamist militants Boko Haram.

However, while the Nigerian military continues its protracted battle against Boko Haram with arms and ammunition, its even longer war with Amnesty International is with words.

Clashes that are often covered in Nigeria’s media, with headlines such as:

Amnesty vs Nigerian army: Who is telling the truth?

You Are A Liar, Nigerian Army Tells Amnesty International

Nigerian Army and Amnesty International clash over report

The international rights body has repeatedly accused the Nigerian government of ignoring calls to conduct independent investigations into its reports.

The Nigerian army in turn has accused Amnesty International of being sponsored by politicians and fifth columnists who are out to damage the country’s reputation.

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The military is accused of atrocities in the fight against Boko Haram

In one of its reports, published in February, Amnesty alleged human rights abuses had been committed by Nigerian security agencies.

The abuses were not only during the fight against Boko Haram militants but also in the armed forces’ quelling of protests in other parts of the country.

“There was continued lack of accountability for serious human rights violations committed by security officers.

“No independent and impartial investigations into crimes committed by the military had taken place despite the president’s repeated promises in May.

“Moreover, senior military officials alleged to have committed crimes under international law remained uninvestigated,” the organisation stated.

‘Heinous Intent’

The Nigerian army’s response was that the human rights NGO was bent on tarnishing their reputation, and went on to state: “For the umpteenth time, the Nigerian Army has informed the public about the heinous intent of this non-governmental organisation which is never relenting in dabbling into our national security in manners that obliterate objectivity, fairness and simple logic.”

After the report was published, a group of protesters barricaded the Abuja office of Amnesty International and demanded that the organisation quit Nigeria within 24 hours.

They called on Nigerians to “join the movement to get this evil out of our land before it plunges us into real war.”

The protestors further said “Unfortunately, if this organisation is allowed to continue carrying out its atrocities here it will destabilise Nigeria”

And they went on to add this ominous warning, “We would be left without a country and we would not be welcomed in other nations. We will become mere footnotes in its next annual report since it stops showing interest in places it has successfully destroyed.”

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A protest against Amnesty in Abuja in March

In Nigeria, gathering a crowd to cause a stir on one’s behalf is only a matter of cash, so few people took the protesters seriously.

However some civil society groups and human rights organisations in Nigeria openly condemned the protests.

They challenged the military to take the criticisms objectively rather than dismissing them outright.

“The facts and figures contained in Amnesty International’s report have not been disputed or shown not to be correct or concocted,” said the national coordinator of one of the groups.

Response to Amnesty challenge

Much to everyone’s surprise the Nigerian military took up this challenge, this time going beyond issuing strong denials and bombastic press statements to actually setting up a board to investigate the Amnesty report.

Three months later, the board has made known its findings.

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Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani

“Nigerians bemused by the differing accounts of the same events remain divided as to whom exactly to believe.


Their verdict? The army is not guilty of the accusations.

It, however, noted areas where the army could improve, such as in allowing Boko Haram suspects access to legal representation.

“The board found that a common feature in all the detention facilities visited was the delay in the legal processing and trial of Boko Haram detainees,” a spokesperson for the board said.

Amnesty International is not happy with this outcome. And so, the war of words continues.

“We stand by the findings of our research and our call for an investigation that is independent, impartial and thorough; criteria that this panel clearly does not meet,” the organisation said.

In the meantime, Nigerians, bemused by the accusations and counter-accusations, and the differing accounts of the same events, remain divided as to whom exactly to believe.

Conveyed by: BBC

Shell 360 Final Flat

  • New case could put an end to decades of impunity for Shell
  • Esther Kiobel has fought for justice for her husband for more than twenty years

Oil giant Shell stands accused of complicity in the unlawful arrest, detention and execution of nine men who were hanged by Nigeria’s military government in the 1990s, Amnesty International can reveal today, following the launch of an explosive new case against the company in the Netherlands over four of the executions.

The civil case has been brought by Esther Kiobel, the widow of Dr Barinem Kiobel, and three other women. Esther Kiobel has pursued Shell for 20 years over the death of her husband. He was hanged in 1995 along with the writer and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and seven other men, collectively known as the Ogoni Nine. At the time the executions sparked a global outcry.

Esther Kiobel accuses Shell of complicity in the unlawful arrest and detention of her husband; the violation of his personal integrity; the violation of his right to a fair trial and his right to life, and her own right to a family life. Amnesty International supported Esther’s legal team to bring the case to the Netherlands, and has released a new briefing, In The Dock, detailing the role played by Shell in the executions.

“The executions of the Ogoni Nine shocked the world. Shell has been dodging accountability for its complicity in these deaths for more than twenty years but now, thanks to Esther Kiobel’s determination and bravery in taking on this corporate Goliath, the past is finally catching up with it,” said Audrey Gaughran,  Senior Director of Research at Amnesty International.

“Today is a watershed moment in Esther Kiobel’s uphill battle for justice. Shell has to answer for the bloody footprints it left all over Ogoniland.”

A Brutal Campaign

The executions were the culmination of a brutal campaign by Nigeria’s military to silence the protests of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by Ken Saro-Wiwa. MOSOP said that others had grown rich on the oil that was pumped from under their soil, while pollution from spills and gas flaring had “led to the complete degradation of the Ogoni environment, turning [their] homeland into an ecological disaster.” In January 1993, MOSOP declared that Shell was no longer welcome to operate in Ogoniland.

The military authorities responded to the MOSOP protests with force, committing numerous serious human rights violations including killings, torture and rape.

Stopping protests was a major concern for both Shell and the Nigerian government, who were business partners in operating wells across the Niger Delta. At the time of the executions Shell was by far the most important company operating in Nigeria. It pumped almost one million barrels of crude oil a day, roughly half of Nigeria’s total daily oil production. Nigeria’s oil exports made up some 96% of the country’s foreign earnings.

“Shell encouraged the government to stop Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP, knowing this was highly likely to result in human rights violations being committed against them. Shell had plenty of evidence that the Nigerian military was responding to the Ogoniland protests with abuse,” said Audrey Gaughran.

Just weeks before the men were arrested the Chairperson of Shell Nigeria had met with then-president General Sani Abacha, and raised “the problem of the Ogonis and Ken Saro-Wiwa”. This was not the first time Shell had engaged with military and security forces to frame the Ogoni protests as a “problem”. Shell also repeatedly reminded the authorities of the economic impacts of the MOSOP protests.

“Shell was reckless in raising Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP as a problem, significantly exacerbating the risk to Saro-Wiwa and those linked to MOSOP. Shell knew full well that the government regularly violated the rights of those linked to MOSOP and that it had targeted Saro-Wiwa,” said Audrey Gaughran.

“Even after the men were jailed, suffering from mistreatment and facing an unfair trial and the likelihood of execution, Shell continued to discuss ways to deal with the “Ogoni problem” with the government rather than expressing concern over the fate of the prisoners. Such conduct cannot be seen as anything other than endorsement and encouragement of the military government’s actions.”

A Devastating Injustice

Esther Kiobel is bringing a civil case along with Victoria Bera, Blessing Eawo and Charity Levula, whose husbands were executed along with Barinem Kiobel. The claimants are demanding damages for harm caused by Shell’s unlawful actions, and a public apology for the role that Shell played in the events leading to the deaths of their husbands.

In May 1994, four Ogoni chiefs known to be opponents of MOSOP were murdered. Without presenting any evidence, the government blamed MOSOP and arrested scores of people, including Ken Saro-Wiwa and Barinem Kiobel. Kiobel was not a member of MOSOP, but had a senior government position and had been critical of the military’s actions in Ogoniland. He said he had tried to stop the murders – a version of events that was supported by evidence presented at the trial. Amnesty International considered Ken Saro-Wiwa and Barinem Kiobel Prisoners of Conscience, detained and ultimately killed for their peacefully held views.

After the arrests, at least two prosecution witnesses came forward to say that they had been bribed by the government to incriminate the accused, including with offers of jobs at Shell, and that Shell’s lawyer was present when they were bribed. Shell has always denied these claims.

Many of the Ogoni men arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of the four chiefs suffered repeated torture and other ill-treatment while detained. Even after the start of the trial, the military commander responsible for the incarceration allowed consultations between defendants and their lawyers only by prior arrangement with him, and usually only in his presence. Relatives said they were assaulted by soldiers when trying to visit the defendants.

Esther Kiobel has alleged that, while visiting her husband in prison, she was assaulted by a military commander and spent two weeks in detention where she was denied food and water.

On 30-31 October 1995, the Ogoni Nine were convicted and sentenced to death. At the timeAmnesty International and others raised serious concerns about the trial, describing it as politically motivated and biased. A British criminal lawyer who observed the trial said he believed “that the Tribunal first decided on its verdict and then sought for arguments to justify them. No barrel was too deep to be scraped.” He also said that the evidence was consistent with the claim that Barinem Kiobel was trying to stop the violence.

On 10 November the men were hanged and their bodies dumped in an unmarked grave.

“Esther Kiobel has lived in the shadow of this injustice for more than twenty years, but she has refused to let Shell silence her. Today her voice rings out on behalf of so many others whose lives have been devastated by the oil industry in Nigeria,” said Channa Samkalden, Esther Kiobel’s lawyer.

“The stakes in this case could not be higher – it could put an end to decades of impunity for Shell, whose name has become synonymous with the power of big corporations to trample over human rights without fear of retribution.”

A Dangerous Relationship

Internal Shell documents seen by Amnesty International reveal that the company knew that the trial of the Ogoni Nine was unfair, and was informed in advance that Ken Saro-Wiwa was highly likely be found guilty.

Nevertheless, the company maintained a close relationship with the Nigerian government, and even offered to help Ken Saro-Wiwa, if he “softened his stance” on the company.

Shell made this offer to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s brother in August 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa was in military detention. Saro-Wiwa’s brother claims Shell offered to help get his brother freed while Shell says that all the company offered was humanitarian or medical aid.

“Shell’s version of events suggests it believed that Ken Saro-Wiwa – arrested, beaten, facing trumped up charges and an unfair trial that was set to see him sentenced to death – would be induced help Shell out in return for some humanitarian aid, said Audrey Gaughran.

“Shell’s version is frankly implausible. If true, it reveals a level of corporate self-interest that defies belief.”

Ken Saro-Wiwa rejected Shell’s offer.

After her husband’s death Esther Kiobel fled to Benin in fear for her life, and in 1998 she was granted asylum in the United States, where she still lives.

“The dangerous liaison between Shell and the Nigerian government has never been properly investigated. Decades after the horrific chain of events that led to the hanging of the Ogoni Nine, there are still huge unanswered questions hanging over Shell,” said Audrey Gaughran.

“It is time to shine a spotlight into these dark corners of Shell’s past. Nothing can bring back the lives lost but here is a chance to send the message that no company, however big, however powerful, can evade justice forever.”

Amnesty International presented the above allegations to Shell. Shell’s global headquarters did not provide a substantive response. Shell Nigeria stated that:

“The allegations cited in your letter against [Shell] are false and without merit. [Shell Nigeria] did not collude with the military authorities to supress community unrest and in no way encouraged or advocated any act of violence in Nigeria….We have always denied these allegations in the strongest possible terms.”

Background

Esther Kiobel first filed a case against Shell in New York in 2002, but in 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled that the US did not have jurisdiction, without hearing the substance of the case.

In the 1990s Shell in Nigeria was a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell (they later merged), and its operations were overseen by a management structure known as the Committee of Managing Directors (CMD) based in Europe.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Amnesty International’s media relations officer Sue Montgomery at 613-744-7667 ext. 236 or smontgomery@amnesty.ca

Conveyed by AMNESTY

us-embassy-690x450The U.S. said on Friday it was “very concerned” about Sudan’s human rights record, which was supposed to have improved by early July in order for Washington to lift sanctions against the country.

In January, the outgoing Obama administration gave Sudan 180 days to improve its record and resolve its political and military conflicts before Washington lifted some economic sanctions that had been stepped up in 2006 for what it said was complicity in violence in Sudan’s Darfur region.

But with the deadline approaching, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum said on its Facebook page it wants to see the Sudanese government make “stronger progress” towards these goals.

“The U.S. remains very concerned about Sudan’s human rights record, including the continued closing of political space, and restrictions on religious freedom, freedom of expression, including press freedom,” the embassy said in a statement.

The embassy said it was still monitoring the government’s progress to determine if it had met the requirements for sanctions to be lifted in July.

“In this process we have pressed to ensure Sudan has adhered to its unilateral cessation of hostilities in conflict areas and ceased all indiscriminate aerial bombardment, a key human rights concern,” the embassy said.

The UN says up to 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced during the Darfur conflict.

On Thursday the UN Security Council agreed to gradually reduce the number of peacekeepers in Darfur that could almost halve the number of troops over the next year if conditions are conducive and the government is cooperative.

Sudan is one of six countries whose citizen are subject to new restrictions on travel to the U.S., following a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Tuesday to revive parts of President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban on nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Sudan said on it hoped the restrictions would not affect the planned lifting of sanctions.

Conveyed by: TODAY

Monday, 12 June 2017 – Event to mark the World Day Against Child Labour

CHILD LABOUR 2017Every year on June 12 the World Day Against Child Labor is observed to raise awareness of the plight of child laborers world-wide. Hundreds of millions of girls and boys around the world are affected.

What Do People Do?

Every year, numerous events are held around the world on June 12 to mark the World Day Against Child Labor and call attention to the problem.

Public Life

The World Day Against Child Labor is a global observance and not a public holiday.

Background

Child labor is especially rampant in many developing countries – but even in industrialized nations many children are forced to work. According to UNICEF, children in the United States “are employed in agriculture, a high proportion of them from immigrant or ethnic-minority families.” There have also been a number of incidents of westerns companies exploiting child laborers in developing countries to save production costs.

In 2011, there were an estimated 215 million child laborers in the world – 115 million of which were involved in hazardous work. To combat child labor around the world the International Labour Organization (ILO) initiated the World Day Against Child Labor in 2002.

External Link

Learn more about the World Day Against Child Labor

day-in-support-of-victims-of-torture
A humiliated, crouching on the floor naked man as a symbol of torture victims. Copyright: narvikk, license: iStockphoto

June 26, 2017 in the World

The International Day in Support of Victims of Torture is a commemorative day which takes place on June 26, 2017. It had been launched by the United Nations (UN) in 1997 and is a result of the UN-convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This convention is binding according to international law, and aims to avoid, ban and prohibit torture.

Torture is defined as the intended inflicting of physic and mental pain and suffering in the shape of violence, fear or massive humiliation. The UN also considers any kind of intended strong physic or mental violence committed by the government as torture. An example for such a kind of torture is extorting confessions. Pain or suffering caused by legal penalty is not considered as torture.

Where is Day in Support of Victims of Torture?
Worldwide
World

When is Day in Support of Victims of Torture?
Monday, the 26th of June 2017

Source: CUTE CALENDAR

irct 26In Nigeria, Kevin was tortured for hours with heated knives and other metallic objects by a community vigilante group working with the police. In the Central African Republic, Carène was raped by rebel leaders and forced to witness the torture of her husband, while in Kenya, Sillah was beaten and had his kneecaps crushed by the police.

Currently in pre-trial detention because he confessed stealing a generator while being tortured, Kevin suffers from insomnia and withdrawal symptoms on top of his physical wounds. Carène, who suffers from PTSD and contracted HIV during the rape, is now a refugee in Cameroon, where she is trying to rebuild a life with her son. For Sillah, the torture caused PTSD and severe physical injuries that prevents him from working. As a result, his family is now without a bread winner and his relatives are continuously being harassed by the perpetrators.

All three are now in the process of rebuilding their lives with support from IRCT members in Cameroon, Kenya and Nigeria. Despite their very different stories, the one thing they have in common is that their individual country has done nothing to help them seek justice or get rehabilitation for the pain that they have suffered. Unfortunately, their experience is emblematic for how torture victims are treated in most states in Africa.

In response to the continent-wide lack of justice and rehabilitation for torture victims, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights issued this month a General Comment calling on states to ensure that people like Kevin, Carène and Sillah get access to justice and the support they need to rebuild their lives after torture. The Commission outlines how states should ensure justice and rehabilitation, also in relation to issues such as armed conflicts, torture by non-state actors, sexual violence and countries in transition. It also clearly establishes that states must support or establish rehabilitation facilities for torture victims and report regularly to the Commission on the status of these efforts.

The General Comment was developed with extensive input from civil society across Africa. As part of the Pan African Reparations Initiative (PARI), the IRCT and its regional members contributed our experience of providing rehabilitation support to the region’s torture victims and our specialised knowledge on right to rehabilitation and standards on effective documentation and investigation of torture.

The General Comment creates a strong platform for civil society to make the right to rehabilitation come to life so that states will fulfil their duty to the many torture victims across Africa.

“In South Africa, reparation has only been available to those who are able to access the court processes, and so it has been out of reach for the many survivors and victims of torture. We believe the General Comment will help us convince the South African government to take responsibility for providing remedies for the harm victims have suffered, for example by strengthening the anti-torture legislation to explicitly include reparation for victims of torture in South Africa,” says Annah Moyo, Advocacy Programme Manager at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR).

Moving ahead, the IRCT will continue to monitor states’ implementation of the standards expressed in the General Comment and develop tools to ensure that this monitoring is based on the well-established regional expertise in supporting victims like Kevin, Carène and Sillah.

Source: IRCT

Sub-Saharan Africa Engaging and Collaborating on DFI Database
All presentations and trainings were translated to facilitate a deeper dialogue across contexts. (From left to right) Jasper Ukachukwu, Pemba Huguette Alonji, Milenge Goerges Georges Mazombwe, Vanquer Kalafula Lusu Yululu, Alexis Bora-Uzima Mashimago and Juma Abubakar Busi

Across the globe hundreds of rehabilitation centres are providing services to thousands of survivors of torture on a daily basis. To support these centres in their rehabilitative work as well as their ability to evidence their work and fight impunity, robust clinical data is vital. The EU-funded DFI Project was set up to meet this need, and through the creation of a standardised database system has facilitated centres’ abilities to collect clinical data; data that can then be used for various human rights outputs.

As part of the project, the IRCT has carried out a number of regional meetings, not only to introduce the project and the database to the wider torture rehabilitation movement, but also to provide a platform from which the centres can come together to discuss and collaborate on ways to ensure responsible data collection and management.

The meeting for the Sub-Saharan Africa region took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 5 to 8 April. It saw 18 rehabilitation centres from across the region come together to learn more about the DFI database and to share their experiences, challenges and successes regarding data collection in their local contexts.

In between the workshop and the many different activities and trainings, participants also had a chance to catch up with each other and exchange ideas and experiences.

Source: IRCT

Global-Prison-Trends-2017-Cover-272x385PRI has launched its annual flagship publication, Global Prison Trends 2017, at the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

Global Prison Trends 2017 is the third edition in our annualGlobal Prison Trends series, which identifies the topical developments and challenges in criminal justice and prison policy and practice. It is published in collaboration with the Thailand Institute of Justice, and features a foreword by HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, UNODC Regional Goodwill Ambassador on the Rule of Law in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and the President of the Thailand Institute of Justice.

Global Prison Trends 2017 explores:

  • Trends in the use of imprisonment, such as pre-trial detention and life imprisonment
  • Prison populations, such as the specific needs of women, foreign nationals and elderly prisoners
  • Developments and challenges in prison management, including security issues and violence, prison labour, and violent extremism in prison
  • The role of technology in the criminal justice system, such as e-learning and video visitation
  • Prison alternatives, including the use of electronic monitoring and community service orders

A Special Focus section looks at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to criminal justice, using examples from a range of countries to highlight specific issues and summarising why criminal justice and criminal justice reform must play a part in achieving the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.

Download the report:  Global_Prison_Trends-2017-Full-Report-1

5063d8bc59d6f8e5d4d7649c95c15651The IRCT congratulates Şebnem Korur Fincanci, president of IRCT member centre Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), on receiving the 2017 Human Rights Award from Physicians for Human Rights.

Dr Fincanci is a world renown forensic expert, one of the authors of the Istanbul Protocol and a leading human rights defender from Turkey. She has intrepidly championed the rights of torture victims in Turkey and globally in a career spanning 25 years.

Dr Fincanci continues to do outstanding work in a climate of repression against herself, HRFT, and Turkish civil society more broadly. Human rights organisations across Turkey are facing widespread crackdown, confronted with judicial and administrative harassment from the State as well as threats of violence. Dr Fincanci was herself arrested by Turkish authorities last year and is now facing indictments due to her work in defence of the human rights of the Kurdish minority in Turkey.

“We are so proud to call Sebnem a member of the IRCT family”, said Victor Madrigal Borloz, Secretary-General of the IRCT. “In difficult times such as these, it is vital for human rights champions to be recognised. Their voices inspire us and strengthen our resolve in the struggle for human rights”.

Dr Fincanci was honoured with the award at the 2017 Physicians for Human Rights Annual Gala hosted in New York City on Tuesday. Physicians for Human Rights recognised her for her tireless defence of press freedom and the rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey.

News conveyed by: http://irct.org/media-and-resources/latest-news/article/922

THE 4TH AFRICAN CORRECTIONAL SERVICES ASSOCIATION (ACSA): BIENNIAL CONFERENCE IN KIGALI, RWANDA – 15TH – 19TH MAY 2017

AfricamapThe fourth coming ACSA conference is scheduled to take place in Kigali, Rwanda from the 15-19 May 2017, under the theme: Building A Professional Correctional System in Africa: A Strategic Objective
The registration for the conference is going on.
Click Register to proceed.
You can also register your presentation. Register Presentation

Click the link for the Conference Program