Investigate attack on Amnesty International, SERAP tells Buhari, Osinbajo

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to “urgently instruct appropriate authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate apparently sponsored and coordinated attacks against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria, and ensure the safety and security of its staff.”

A group of protesters on Monday barricaded the Abuja office of Amnesty International and asked the international organisation to quit Nigeria within 24 hours.

In a statement Tuesday signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Timothy Adewale, the organisation called on Messrs. Buhari and Osinbajo to “act swiftly to end the increasing and apparently sponsored attacks, intimidation, harassment and threats against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff. Any failure to hold to account those who may be responsible will invariably increase the vulnerability of civil society in the country, and strengthen the perception that attacks against NGOs and human rights workers can happen with impunity.”

The statement read in part: “If the Buhari government does not take all necessary measures to immediately end the mob attack on Amnesty International or any other civil society group for that matter, SERAP will be compelled to take appropriate legal action nationally and internationally including approaching the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a remedy.”

“SERAP will continue to work to challenge any attempt to restrict, silence or eliminate the voices of credible civil society in the country. We urge the presidency to speak out strongly against intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff. Investigating the attacks against AI, naming and shaming the sponsors and bringing them to justice will send a powerful message of protection and support to civil society groups who stand up to speak truth to power.”

“Any attack on Amnesty International Office in Nigeria or harassment and intimidation of its staff members is an assault on the entire human rights community in the country. Sponsoring protests against NGOs that have shown astonishing courage in their human rights work hurt those most in need, undermine access of Nigerian victims of human rights violations and abuses to justice, and contribute to a culture of impunity of perpetrators.”

“This government has an obligation to support and protect civil society groups and human rights defenders against violence and sponsored attacks. Nigeria is a democratic society and the government can’t just sit back and watch reprisals, threats and increasing hostility to Amnesty International in particular and the NGO community in general.”

“Under the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and international human rights law, everyone whose rights are violated is entitled to a right to an effective remedy. Exposing human rights violations and seeking redress for them is largely dependent on the degree of security enjoyed by civil society groups and human rights defenders. Protecting NGOs against sponsored attacks and ending impunity for such attacks is therefore a critical element in the promotion and protection of human rights in this country.”

“While some may not like to hear some of the things Amnesty International has said, this in no way justifies this kind of mob attack on its office and staff members. The authorities should show commitment to protecting the right to freedom of expression and guarantee conditions for civil society to flourish.”

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