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Nigeria: Government to be Quizzed on Human Rights Record at UN

LONDON - As the Nigerian government prepares to be quizzed over its human
rights record by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Amnesty
International called on the government to take its human rights
responsibilities seriously and implement any recommendations coming
from the Council as quickly as possible.

A Nigerian government delegation will be examined at 14.30 on
Monday, 9 February in a three-hour session in Geneva. The Nigerian
representatives will be asked to explain their record in areas such
torture, illegal killings by security agents, the death penalty and
prison conditions.

Amnesty International has provided the UN Human Rights Council with
an alternative report to the one being presented by the Nigerian
delegation, in which the organization highlights some of the major
areas of human rights concern in the country, with recommendations on
how to tackle them.

"We hope that the Nigerian government will use this unique
opportunity to focus on the key human rights challenges facing the
country and take seriously any recommendations as to how they can
improve shortfalls," said Aster van Kregten, Amnesty International's
Nigeria researcher.

In its report to the Human Rights Council, the Nigerian government
claims that the death penalty is rarely applied, and that this is
"tantamount to the adoption of self-imposed moratorium". The reality is
that at least 22 executions have been carried out in the country in the
last ten years -- including at least seven in 2006. At least 40 child
offenders remain on death row, in contravention of international human
rights standards.

Amnesty International has serious concerns that many of those on
death row may be innocent, due to problems linked to unfair trials,
inadequate investigations and claims of torture being used to extract
confessions. Amnesty International urged the government to make this
moratorium on the death penalty official, by adopting legislation
calling for an immediate halt to all executions.

The Nigerian government claims in its report to the Human Rights
Council that torture is not widespread in Nigeria. Information from
Amnesty International and Nigerian human rights organizations indicates
that this is far from true: Amnesty International has documented many
cases of suspects who were tortured by the police and seen numerous
cases of scars, bruises, and dried blood, indicating beatings serious
enough to require medical care. Prisoners also told Amnesty
International that they had witnessed suspects being tortured to death
or executed by the police.

"There is an absolute and unconditional prohibition of torture and
ill-treatment in international law and accepted moral standards. It
degrades victims and dehumanizes the torturer. It is imperative that
Nigeria stamps out this practice immediately."

Over the years, the government has itself come up with
recommendations on how to improve human rights in the areas of torture,
access to justice and the death penalty. Unfortunately, few of these
recommendations have been implemented. Legislation drafted to address
these concerns has been on hold for years in the National Assembly.

"A country's engagement with international review mechanisms such as
the UN Human Rights Council is always positive," acknowledged Aster van
Kregten.  "However, for this engagement to truly have a positive
outcome, the Nigerian government has to look at the human rights
problems facing Nigeria with a critical eye, with a view to making real
improvements for the people of Nigeria."

The Universal Periodic Review -- or UPR -- is the first-ever UN
mechanism to look at the human rights records of all countries. During
the current session, scheduled to run until 13 February, the UN Human
Rights Council will examine the governments of 16 countries on their
human rights records.
Countries scheduled for examination this month include China, the Russian Federation, Cuba, Mexico and Nigeria.

To see a copy of Amnesty International's submission to the UN Human
Rights Council with recommendations on how to improve the human rights
situation, please click here.
Please click on the following links to see recent, detailed Amnesty International reports regarding Nigeria's criminal justice system and the death penalty.


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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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