For Immediate Release
Nigeria: Investigate Killings by Security Forces
Address Discrimination and Other Root Causes of November 2008 Violence in Jos
JOS, Nigeria - The Plateau State Judicial Commission of Inquiry in Nigeria should
investigate and call for the prosecution of members of the security
forces responsible for the alleged killing of more than 130 people in
November 2008, Human Rights Watch said today.
Human Rights Watch testified
before the commission on July 20, 2009 in Jos, the capital of Plateau
State in central Nigeria, where on November 28-29, 2008, sectarian
violence between Muslim and Christian mobs left hundreds dead. During
the testimony, Nigeria Researcher Eric Guttschuss recounted chilling
accounts of policemen and soldiers gunning down unarmed citizens in
their homes, chasing down and killing men trying to flee to safety, and
lining victims up on the ground and summarily executing them. Human
Rights Watch conducted on-the-ground research in Jos in the immediate
aftermath of the violence and in February 2009.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry was set up by the Plateau State
government to look into the causes of the Jos violence and to identify
the individuals or groups responsible. Nigeria's federal government has
also established a Presidential Panel of Investigation, which has yet
to hold hearings after repeated delays.
"At least 130 men were killed by members of the very institutions
charged with protecting them," said Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa
researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These investigative bodies owe it to
the victims and their families to conduct a thorough and impartial
investigation into these extremely serious allegations."
Human Rights Watch found that while most of the deadly
inter-communal clashes took place on November 28, the vast majority of
killings by the police and military came on November 29, the day that
the Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, issued a "shoot-on-sight"
directive to the security forces. Human Rights Watch documented 118
cases of alleged arbitrary killings by the security forces that took
place between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on November 29 alone.
The majority of killings documented by Human Rights Watch were
allegedly committed by the Nigerian police. In 15 separate incidents of
arbitrary killings by the police, at least 74 men and boys, all but two
of them Muslims, were killed. The vast majority of police killings were
perpetrated by the anti-riot Police Mobile Force, commonly referred to
as the mobile police or MOPOL.
Human Rights Watch also documented eight incidents involving the
alleged arbitrary killing of 59 men by the military. According to
witnesses, all of these victims were Muslim men, most were young, and
nearly all were unarmed at the time they were killed. Human Rights
Watch believes the actual number of arbitrary killings by security
forces may be substantially higher than these figures.
Human Rights Watch further urged the federal government of Nigeria
to address the root causes of the violence, including by passing
nationwide legislation banning all forms of discrimination against "non-indigenes"
with respect to any matter not directly related to traditional
leadership institutions or other purely cultural matters.
"Non-indigenes" are loosely defined as those who cannot trace their
ancestry to what are said to be the original inhabitants of a
"The government should consider the sectarian killings in Jos as a
wake-up call to address the longstanding problems of discrimination and
inequality that in large part underpin and contribute to this kind of
violence," Dufka said.
Nigeria's Senate and House of Representatives likewise convened ad
hoc committees to determine the causes of the violence in Jos. Human
Rights Watch also submitted statements to the presidential panel and
the two ad hoc legislative committees.
Human Rights Watch is one of the world's leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.