The Nigerian government must establish a credible, independent inquiry into the recent killing of at least 12 peaceful protestors by its soldiers, a group of independent UN human rights experts said on Tuesday.
The protestors were demonstrating against a discredited police unit accused of various human rights violations and were calling for its disbandment.
The rights experts said the Oct. 20 shootings at Lekki toll plaza in Lagos were “especially disturbing because demonstrators were precisely calling for accountability for previous police brutality”.
The fact that CCTV cameras and lights were apparently switched off shortly before soldiers opened fire indicates “a disturbing level of premeditation”, they added.
“Since 2005, UN Special Rapporteurs have repeatedly raised the issue of police killings and impunity with the Nigerian government,” the eight experts said.
“We have had 15 years of government promises, but nothing has changed. Governments come and go, but police brutality is as intractable as ever. Nigerians need justice.”
Thousands of Nigerians have taken to the streets since early October to protest against violations reportedly committed by a notorious police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Hundreds have been injured and an unknown number killed in the demonstrations, according to the UN expert, while security services have allegedly arrested and beaten protestors, and armed individuals have attacked others.
“What is particularly disturbing is that the authorities said they had disbanded the SARS and agreed to the protestors other demands, including investigations,” stated the rights experts.
“But they immediately announced the formation of another similar unit and have not ended the excessive use of force.”
The UN experts underscored that systematic police brutality and excessive use of force against peaceful protestors must be independently and impartially investigated. Perpetrators also should be brought to justice.
In addition to setting up an independent inquiry, the Nigerian authorities must clarify why the military was deployed and who gave the order, they said.
“Any investigation must aim to identify lines of responsibility, deliver accountability and justice, provide remedies and reparations, and recommend structural and systemic changes,” they said.
The eight experts, who were appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization.
They called on the Nigerian Government to release the reports of previous investigations.
“The authorities have promised for years to address human rights violations by the security forces,” they said.
“Hundreds of victims and relatives of those who died have testified and sent petitions, but they never received any remedy, not even the acknowledgement that their rights were violated,” the rights experts said.
“It is crucial that the government releases all these reports to the public before they start new investigations.” (Source: UN News)