Human Rights Watch's Comments On
US STATE DEPARTMENT'S (2001) ANNUAL
HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES IN NIGERIA
U.S. State Department Rights Reports Critique
(Washington, March 4, 2002) -- This year's State Department Human Rights Reports are largely candid and accurate, Human Rights Watch said today, while urging the Bush Administration to apply the reports' findings to coming policy decisions.
The reports single out countries like China and Russia for using the war on terrorism to legitimize repression, and honestly describe abuses committed by U.S. allies such as Uzbekistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. An exception is the Colombia chapter, which appears to inflate the military's progress in cutting ties with paramilitary groups to set the stage for certifying compliance with Congressional human rights conditions.
The reports also forthrightly acknowledge that terrorists gain adherents in countries where human rights are denied and civil liberties are repressed.
"The Administration argues forcefully in this report that defending human rights is vital to fighting terrorism," said Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. "That argument needs to be reflected in the alliances it is forging, the money it is spending, and the bases it is building overseas."
"For the most part, the State Department deserves credit for pulling no punches," he added. "But a human rights report is not by itself a human rights policy."
Nigeria: The report
provides a comprehensive and accurate description of the poor human
rights situation in Nigeria. However, it does not adequately indicate the
Nigerian government's responsibility to investigate and prosecute serious
human rights abuses. The report notes numerous killings by the security
forces and other violence during inter-communal conflicts, but does not
stress the government's continuing failure to investigate these abuses
or take preventive action. While appropriately describing the killing of
civilians in October in Benue state as "the year's most egregious case,"
the report goes on to attribute the killings in part to a lack of training.
In fact, this incident was a well-organized reprisal operation following
the abduction and killing of nineteen soldiers by an armed group. The
U.S. should ensure that any future assistance to the Nigerian security forces be linked to measurable progress in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the killings and destruction in Benue in 2001, as well as the killing and destruction in Odi in 1999.