Month: September 2017


Location: GENEVA

Date:  26-27 APRIL 2017

“Torture Victims in the Context of Migration: Identification, redress and rehabilitation”, convened last April by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Expert Workshop on “Torture Victims in the Context of Migration: Identification, Redress and Rehabilitation” called for upholding the rights of people on the move. Frontline human rights defenders, working with the financial support of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, highlighted better policy standards and pointed to the techniques and good practices that can support rights-based early identification, redress and rehabilitation for torture survivors in the context of migration. Their wisdom is invaluable and their call must be heeded for a robust demonstration of rights-based compassion in the context of migration.

Read full report below

UN Torture Fund – 2017 Expert Workshop

How Cameroon torture, abuse and forcefully return thousands of Nigerian refugees – HRW

Cameroon’s military has carried out a mass forced return of 100,000 Nigerian asylum seekers in an effort to stem the spread of Boko Haram, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Wednesday.

The deportations defy the UN refugee agency’s plea not to return anyone to northeast Nigeria “until the security and human rights situation has improved considerably,” and leaves deportees facing spiralling violence, displacement and destitution.

The 55-page report, “‘They Forced Us Onto Trucks Like Animals’: Cameroon’s Mass Forced Return and Abuse of Nigerian Refugees,” documents that since early 2015, Cameroonian soldiers have tortured, assaulted, and sexually exploited Nigerian asylum seekers in remote border areas, denied them access to the UN refugee agency, and summarily deported, often violently, tens of thousands to Nigeria. It also documents violence, poor conditions, and unlawful movement restrictions in Cameroon’s only official camp for Nigerian refugees, as well as conditions recent returnees face in Nigeria.

“The Cameroonian military’s torture and abuse of Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers seems to be driven by an arbitrary decision to punish them for Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon and to discourage Nigerians from seeking asylum,” said Gerry Simpson, associate refugee director at Human Rights Watch. “Cameroon should heed the UN’s call on all countries to protect refugees fleeing the carnage in northeast Nigeria, not return them there.”

In late June and July 2017, Human Rights Watch interviewed 61 asylum seekers and refugees in Nigeria about the abuses they faced in Cameroon. They said soldiers had accused them of belonging to Boko Haram, a Nigerian militant Islamist group, or of being “Boko Haram wives” while torturing or assaulting them and dozens of others on arrival, during their stay in remote border areas, and during mass deportations. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it has heard similar accounts from Nigerians living in Cameroon’s border areas.

Some said their children, weakened after living for months or years without adequate food and medical care in border areas, died during or just after the deportations, and others said children were separated from their parents.

An asylum seeker who was deported from Mora in March 2017 described how without warning, Cameroonian soldiers rounded up 40 asylum seekers “and severely beat us and forced us onto a bus. They beat some of the men so badly, they were heavily bleeding. When we got to the Nigerian border they shouted ‘Go and die in Nigeria.’”

Refugees who reached Cameroon’s only designated camp for Nigerian refugees, in Minawao, have also faced violence from Cameroonian soldiers. While they have some protection as refugees, the approximately 70,000 people there have had limited access to food and water and abusive restrictions on their movement. In April and May, 13,000 returned from Minawao to a displacement camp in Banki, just across the border in Nigeria. Some were killed in early September when Boko Haram attacked the camp.

Although UNHCR does not have reliable access to most of Cameroon’s border areas with Nigeria, in early June it said its monitoring partners found Cameroon had forcibly returned almost 100,000 Nigerians to their country since January 2015. In late June, the Nigerian authorities responded to Cameroonian pressure by sending military vehicles over the border to help Cameroon deport almost 1,000 asylum seekers. That made Nigeria complicit in the unlawful forced return of its own citizens.

Tens of thousands of deportees from Cameroon end up in insecure militarized displacement camps or villages in Borno State, where conditions are dire, and women and girls face sexual exploitation. These sites are surrounded by the ongoing conflict between Nigeria’s armed forces and Boko Haram, which as of mid-September had displaced almost 2 million other Nigerian civilians.

Cameroon’s forced returns are a breach of the principle of nonrefoulement, which prohibits the forcible return of refugees and asylum seekers to persecution and, under regional standards in Africa, to situations of generalized violence, such as in northeast Nigeria.

Since 2014, Cameroonian armed forces have carried out operations against Boko Haram in the country’s Far North Region. Cameroon has the right to regulate the presence of non-nationals on its territory, including those proven to be threat to its national security. The authorities also have an obligation to carefully investigate attacks in Cameroon by suspected Boko Haram members. However, it may not block refugees from seeking asylum and summarily deport them.

After staying publicly silent on the situation for two years, in late March, UNHCR publicly criticised the authorities for their mass forced refugee returns. The criticism was triggered by deportations after Cameroon had signed an agreement that month with Nigeria and UNHCR confirming that it would ensure that all refugee return was voluntary.

As of mid-September, the Cameroonian authorities had allowed UNHCR only to pre-register asylum seekers in some border communities, leaving those pre-registered and tens of thousands of other asylum seekers without access to meaningful protection and putting them at risk of deportation.

The Cameroonian authorities deny any forced return or abuse of Nigerian asylum seekers and have not replied to a Human Rights Watch request for a response to the report’s findings. Cameroon has had a reputation as a generous country toward refugees since the early 1970s and it has hosted tens and then hundreds of thousands of refugees since then.

“Faced with overwhelming evidence of mass refugee abuse and UN condemnation, Cameroon is trying to bury its head in the sand,” Simpson said. “But returning tens of thousands of Nigerians to harm and destitution will only further shred its well-deserved reputation as a generous refugee-hosting country.”

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Human rights abuses: Wike tasks military on thorough recruitment process

PORT HAR-COURT— Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Tuesday urged the Nigerian military to take a critical look at the recruitment processes of its personnel to check alleged issues of human rights abuses by its officers.Wike gave the charge when the Presidential Investigating Panel to Review Compliance of the Armed forces with Human Rights Obligation and Rules of Engagement paid a courtesy visit on him at Government House in Port Harcourt.

Represented by his Deputy Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, Wike expressed confidence on the panel’s ability to fashion out a sustainable mechanism to deal with issues of human rights abuses by security agencies. The governor said it was unfortunate that there had been several alleged cases of brutality and violation of human rights by security agencies because of the activities of a few personnel. Wike said: “You will get memoranda from us about the undermining of the Electoral Act by security agencies. There is an urgent need to look at the recruitment processes. Are they qualified? Are they patriotic? Do they have professional ethics? These are questions that are begging for answers.” He reiterated his commitment to the unity of the country, adding that he would not support any secessionist agenda because God, in his infinite wisdom, had put Nigeria together as one and the country would continue to remain one. Earlier, Chairman of the Presidential Investigating Panel Justice Bauble Abraham Georgewill, had told the governor that the panel received memoranda from various stakeholders and had fully commenced sitting. Georgewill, however, called on the people of the South-South states to avail themselves the opportunity to make presentations.

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Widow accuses Ekiti lawmaker of sexual assault, physical brutality

The Ekiti State International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has demanded the arrest and prosecution of a member of the House of Assembly, Dare Pelemo, for alleged sexual harassment and physical assault of a widow, Mrs. Mercy Ilesanmi.

But Pelemo denied sexually harassing and assaulting Mrs Ilesanmi.

The lawmaker was accused of fondling the breasts of the woman on September 6 at the Assembly complex.

Mrs. Ilesanmi said she raised an alarm but the lawmaker mobilised thugs to beat her.

The brutality, she said, took place in the Office of Majority Leader Mr. Tunji Akinyele, where she lodged a complaint on the alleged sexual harassment.

She said the hoodlums tore her clothes.

Ekiti FIDA Desk Officer Mrs. Kemi Atitebi said the organisation received the complaint against Pelemo but the legislator shunned the invitation to defend himself.

She said: “FIDA Ekiti received the complaint of sexual harassment and assault against Dare Pelemo and the complainant is Mrs. Ilesanmi, that she was assaulted and stripped naked on the premises of the Assembly Complex.

“FIDA wrote a letter to invite the respondent for us to hear his side of the story and to mediate in the matter. The woman is a widow and mother of children and her dignity has been violated for the fact that she was stripped naked.”

Narrating her ordeal, Mrs. Ilesanmi said: “I came to visit a member representing my constituency, Samuel Omotoso but he was not around.

“On my way out, I met Pelemo and we  exchanged pleasantries. Immediately, he fondled my breasts and I asked him what was the meaning of that. I am a married woman for that matter, and I don’t like how he touched my breast.

“He now said that I am an enemy of government, that I am not supposed to come to the Assembly. I now asked him, is that the reason why you are touching my breasts, a married woman for that matter? I challenged him that this is too much.

“I went to report the matter to Akinyele and I met the Clerk in Akinyele’s office with two other visitors. He was on phone but I waited.

“Before I knew what was happening, Pelemo came in with some miscreants and they started beating me and destroying things in that office, asking what I was doing in the Assembly Complex.”

Mrs. Ilesanmi’s lawyer, Adeoye Aribasoye, said he has forwarded a petition on the assault and sexual harassment to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Chafe.

Aribasoye said: “Our petition is receiving the attention of the commissioner of Police.  Besides, FIDA in Ekiti is also investigating the case and I believe that soon, an action will be taken on the matter.”

Pelemo accused the woman of “attempting to frame him up and destroying his name.”

Pelemo, who is the House committee chairman on Security, said Mrs. Ilesanmi did not wear visitor’s tag when she visited the Assembly Complex on September 5, which prompted him to challenge her on her mission.

The lawmaker accused Mrs. Ilesanmi of working as an agent of the senator representing Ekiti South, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, who is no longer in the good books of Governor Ayo Fayose and leadership of the Assembly.

Pelemo said: “It is not true that I touched her, I did not touch her breasts but I suddenly saw a petition from FIDA last Friday but I had travelled to my hometown, Ilasa-Ekiti, after which the FIDA people called me and I told them that I would be coming back on Monday.

“It was not as if I ignored FIDA, she is trying to frame me up and destroy my good name. She is being sponsored by some people but I will still honour the FIDA invitation.”

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