Amnesty International: We will take Buhari to court, if mob attack is not stopped – SERAP

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to sue the Presidency headed by Muhammadu Buhari, unless necessary measures are taken immediately to end the mob attack on Amnesty International or any other civil society group in the country.

The group made this threat in a statement issued on Tuesday and signed by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale. This follows the ultimatum given by protesters who stormed the Abuja office of Amnesty International, demanding the international organisation to quit Nigeria within 24 hours.

According to SERAP, President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo need to speak out strongly against intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff or leave the group with no option but to take appropriate legal actions nationally and internationally including approaching the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a remedy.

The group called on the Presidency to “urgently instruct appropriate authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate apparently sponsored and coordinated attacks against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria, and ensure the safety and security of its staff.”

The statement added that; “any failure to hold to account those who may be responsible will invariably increase the vulnerability of civil society in the country, and strengthen the perception that attacks against NGOs and human rights workers can happen with impunity.”

The statement reads in part: “If the Buhari government does not take all necessary measures to immediately end the mob attack on Amnesty International or any other civil society group for that matter, SERAP will be compelled to take appropriate legal action nationally and internationally including approaching the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders for a remedy.”
“SERAP will continue to work to challenge any attempt to restrict, silence or eliminate the voices of credible civil society in the country. We urge the presidency to speak out strongly against intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff.

Investigating the attacks against AI, naming and shaming the sponsors and bringing them to justice will send a powerful message of protection and support to civil society groups who stand up to speak truth to power.”

“Any attack on Amnesty International Office in Nigeria or harassment and intimidation of its staff members is an assault on the entire human rights community in the country. Sponsoring protests against NGOs that have shown astonishing courage in their human rights work hurt those most in need, undermine access of Nigerian victims of human rights violations and abuses to justice, and contribute to a culture of impunity of perpetrators.”

“This government has an obligation to support and protect civil society groups and human rights defenders against violence and sponsored attacks. Nigeria is a democratic society and the government can’t just sit back and watch reprisals, threats and increasing hostility to Amnesty International in particular and the NGO community in general.”

“Under the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and international human rights law, everyone whose rights are violated is entitled to a right to an effective remedy. Exposing human rights violations and seeking redress for them is largely dependent on the degree of security enjoyed by civil society groups and human rights defenders.

Protecting NGOs against sponsored attacks and ending impunity for such attacks is therefore a critical element in the promotion and protection of human rights in this country.”

“While some may not like to hear some of the things Amnesty International has said, this in no way justifies this kind of mob attack on its office and staff members. The authorities should show commitment to protecting the right to freedom of expression and guarantee conditions for civil society to flourish.”