Nigeria: New Reports on Ogoni Crisis, 07/13/'95

Nigeria: New Reports on Ogoni Crisis, 07/13/'95

The Nigerian military government has been engaged in a systematic and violent crackdown in the Ogoni region of the oil-rich Niger Delta, where indigenous communities have organized in protest against multinational oil companies. In The Ogoni Crisis: A Case Study of Military Repression in Southeastern Nigeria, released today, Human Rights Watch/Africa focuses on the most recent phase of the repression, which began in late May 1994, following the murders of four Ogoni leaders believed to have been pro-government. Human Rights Watch/Africa charges that the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force embarked on a series of punitive raids on Ogoni villages, resulting in extrajudicial executions, shootings, arbitrary arrests, floggings, rapes and looting which violate Nigeria's obligations under international law and the Nigerian Constitution. The new 50-page report also documents attacks by the security forces on other indigenous communities in the Niger Delta, where local residents have begun to emulate the Ogonis' well- organized protests.

The Ogoni people and other communities in the Delta contend that multinational oil companies, particularly the Shell Petroleum Development Company, in concert with the Nigerian government, have ravaged their land and contaminated their rivers. Shell officials have admitted requesting assistance from the Nigerian military authorities to defend the company's installations. Although oil production in Ogoniland was suspended in mid- 1993, the abuses set in motion by Shell's reliance on military protection there continue. Based on its investigation in Nigeria and an ongoing discussion with Royal Dutch/Shell, Human Rights Watch/Africa has devised a set of basic human rights principles, presented in the report, and calls on the multinational oil companies to adhere to them in the course of their business operations.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, has been at the forefront of the confrontation between the indigenous communities of the Niger Delta, the oil companies and the government. Mr. Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists were detained and are currently on trial before a three-member special tribunal appointed by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. The tribunal, which has the authority to impose the death penalty, lacks independence and impartiality and has been the subject of intense international criticism. Faced with increasing evidence of the tribunal's bias against the defendants, the defense team has reportedly decided to withdraw from Saro-Wiwa's case -- to avoid "glorifying the tribunal which is set up for a pre-determined purpose," according to one defense lawyer.

During its three-week mission to Nigeria this year, Human Rights Watch/Africa also gathered the first-ever testimony from soldiers who were themselves involved in the military's punitive campaign in Ogoniland. Soldiers described their participation in clandestine military raids designed to appear like communal clashes that would support the government's fraudulent contention that the violence in the region was the product of ethnic strife.

Human Rights Watch offers a series of recommendations to the Nigerian government, the international community and the multinational oil companies in order to improve the human rights situation in Nigeria:

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Government of Nigeria to:

1. Order the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force to cease immediately extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate shooting, arbitrary arrests and detention, floggings, rapes, looting, and extortion;

2. Disband the special tribunal established to try those accused of the May 21, 1994 murders of four Ogoni leaders;

3. Facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of all detainees held solely for he non-violent expression of their political beliefs, drop all politically motivated charges against them, and cease arbitrary detention without charge;

4. Convene an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the May 21, 1994 murders;

5. Insofar as credible evidence exists for any defendants accused of complicity in legally recognizable crimes, try them within a reasonable time before a competent, independent, and impartial court in compliance with Nigeria's obligations under international human rights law and the Nigerian Constitution;

6. Convene independent commissions of inquiry to investigate the actions of the Internal Security Task Force in Ogoniland and as yet uninvestigated attacks on other oil-producing communities;

7. Publicly prosecute in accordance with international standards all members of the Nigerian security forces who are implicated in violent human rights abuses;

8. Pending conclusion of the prosecutions, suspend members of the security forces implicated in violent human rights abuses;

9. Open Ogoniland to independent observers and human rights monitors, who should be allowed unimpeded access to the area without military escort;

10. Open the Kpor and Bori detention centers to independent monitors and ensure that detention conditions are consistent with international standards;

11. Provide relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement assistance to residents of oil-producing areas who have suffered losses in government-sponsored attacks.

Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends that the international community press the Nigerian government to implement the above recommendations through public criticism, active monitoring of political trials, and policies of aid and trade. In particular: Member States of the European Union should adopt a legally binding common position, in accordance with Article J.2 of the Treaty of Maastricht, incorporating some of those measures already agreed upon as "politically binding," namely:
-suspension of military cooperation,
-visa restrictions for members of the military and security forces who are reliably accused of participation in human rights abuses,
-suspension of visits by members of the military and intelligence service,
-imposition of case-by-case review, with a presumption of denial, for all new export license applications for defense equipment,
-cancellation of training courses for all Nigerian military personnel,
-review of new European Union aid projects on a case-by-case basis, and
-suspension of all non-essential high-level visits to and from Nigeria.

The European Union and its member states should also promote compliance by the Nigerian government with international human rights standards by:

1. Pressing the Nigerian government to implement the above recommendations;

2. Publicly naming those members of the Nigerian government to whom visas are denied as a result of their complicity in human rights violations;

3. Freezing all foreign assets of members of the Nigerian government who are responsible for serious human rights violations;

4. Moving beyond case-by-case review, with a presumption of denial, for export license applications for defense equipment to embargoes on the sale and shipment of arms to the Nigerian government;

5. Using their leverage in the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and other international financial institutions to block all non-"basic human needs" loans and disbursements to Nigeria;

6. Publicly raising the issue of political prisoners with the Nigerian government and making efforts to visit prisoners in detention;

7. Sending observers to the trials of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP activists charged with the May 21, 1994 murders;

8. Urging their embassies to support the efforts of Nigerian human rights groups by meeting regularly with Nigerian human rights activists and issuing statements condemning human rights abuses.

The United States should promote compliance by the Nigerian government with international human rights standards by:

1. Pressing the Nigerian government to implement the above recommendations;

2. Rigorously enforcing the existing policy of denying visas to Nigerians who formulate or implement policies impeding a transition to democracy in Nigeria or who benefit from such policies, as well as the immediate families of such persons;

3. Rigorously enforcing the existing policy of case-by-case review of commercial military sales, with the presumption of denial, and moving beyond this policy to an embargo of all arms sales and shipments to Nigeria.

4. Implementing other policies consistent with those recommended for the European Union and its member states.

[Similar measures are called for by Commonwealth member states, African governments and the United Nations.]

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on Royal Dutch/Shell and other multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria to adhere to a set of basic human rights principles in the course of their business operations. By virtue of their influence in Nigeria and their participation in joint ventures in which the government is a principal stakeholder, the multinational oil companies are well placed to convey their concern about Nigeria's rapidly deteriorating human rights record in the course of their business dealings with local, state, and federal authorities. Because the Nigerian security forces have often employed grossly abusive measures to quell protests by residents of oil-producing areas against the activities of the multinational oil companies, the oil companies have a particular responsibility to address abuses perpetrated in th is context. Human Rights Watch/Africa encourages the multinational oil companies to:

1. Appoint responsible high-ranking corporate officials to monitor the use of force by the Nigerian military in the oil-producing areas and to denounce the use of unjustified or excessive force;

2. Urge the Nigerian government to allow nonviolent freedom of association and expression, particularly with respect to grievances directed against the oil industry;

3. Publicly and privately call upon the Nigerian government to restrain the use of armed force in the oil- producing aras;

4. Publicly and privately condemn human rights abuses by the Nigerian security forces in the areas where the companies are operating;

5. Urge the Nigerian government to cease arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters and to release all individuals held for the nonviolent expression of their political beliefs;

6. Protest the Abacha government's dissolution of the governing bodies of the oil workers' unions and detention of oil union leaders without charge or trial, and press the government for their reinstatement;

7. Shell and Chevron should refuse to resume production in Ogoniland until the Nigerian government has ceased human rights abuses against the Ogoni, has conducted an independent investigation of military and police activities in Ogoniland, has publicized the results, and has brought to trial those who directed and carried out violent abuses, and has disbanded the special tribunal established to try Ken Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP activists.

Copies of the report are available from the Publications Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017 for $6.00 (domestic) and $7.50 (international).

Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization established in 1978. Robert L. Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is vice chair. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to monitor and promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Abdullahi An-Na'im is the executive director; Janet Fleischman is the Washington director; Alex Vines is the research associate; Kimberly Mazyck is the associate; Alison DesForges, Kirsti Lattu, Bronwen Manby and Lynn Welchman are consultants. William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee and Alice Brown is the vice chair.


From: "APIC"
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 09:01:15 +0000
Subject: Nigeria: New Reports on Ogoni Crisis