UN expert condemns Nigeria crackdown on Shia group

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By BBC Africa 

The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions has condemned Nigeria’s excessive use of force against force against Shia protesters.

The pro-Iranian Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) was banned in July after months of protests by its followers calling for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky. He and his wife have been detained since 2015.

UN rapporteur Agnes Callamard said the banning of IMN appeared be based on what the authorities thought the group could become rather than its actions, Reuters news agency reports.

Sheikh Zakzaky, 66, is facing charges of culpable homicide and other offences, all of which he denies.

He has also denied that his group, which runs hospitals and schools in some states in northern Nigeria, gets any funding from Iran.

Shias make up a small minority in predominantly Sunni Muslim northern Nigeria. Estimates put their numbers at around four million in a national population of about 190 million.

Ms Callamard was sharing her findings with journalists in the capital, Abuja, on Monday after two weeks of investigating issues of rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the country.

The BBC’s Chris Ewokor in Abuja says she described Nigeria as a “pressure cooker” of internal conflict and and called for urgent action to address both arbitrary killings and the lack justice for victims of rights violations.

"The lack of accountability is on such a scale that pretending this is nothing short of a crisis will be a major mistake. If ignored, its ripple effect will spread in the sub-region given the country's important role in the continent," Reuters quoted her as saying.

Our reporter says she noted that with the country’s large population, increased rates of extreme poverty and proliferation of arms; unchecked rights violations could lead to a crisis which could have a negative impact on the sub-region and continent.

"The government should condemn publicly all extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, including of suspected armed robbers, and announce that perpetrators will be brought to justice in fair trials before ordinary civilian courts and without recourse to death penalty," the AFP news agency quotes her as saying.

Nigeria’s security agencies are battling Islamist insurgents in the north-east, deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen and rampant kidnappings nationwide.

 

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