Human RightsNews

Amnesty International Demands Justice At ECOWAS Court For Victims Of Enforced Disappearances In Northeastern Nigeria

Amnesty International, 23 victims and survivors of enforced disappearances, and the Sterling Centre for Law and Development had last month jointly filed a case at the ECOWAS court seeking justice for victims of enforced disappearances by Nigeria’s military.

In a report released on Friday, Nov. 3, Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, said its application seeking justice for victims of enforced disappearance in northeastern Nigeria has officially become a pending case, following the receipt of the application by the Nigerian government. 

“This is just the first step. We call on the Nigerian authorities to cooperate closely with the court in its proceedings, to conduct an independent, impartial and effective investigation into cases of enforced disappearances in Northeast Nigeria,” Isa Sanusi, Nigeria Director, Amnesty International, said.

Enforced disappearances in the northeastern region of Nigeria is a deeply concerning issue brought on by the decade-long Boko Haram insurgency which has ravaged the area.

In many cases, people are abducted during terrorist attacks and inevitably suffer separation from their families. In other cases, they are arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Nigerian military and other forces involved in the counter-insurgency operations.

In August 2022, the International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 25,000 Nigerians were missing in the northeastern region alone; with about 64,000 missing across Africa, Nigeria accounts for the highest percentage of the figure, making it the African country with the highest number of missing persons.

While the emerging figures may be staggering, authorities in the country do not seem to be taking precise and decisive measures to ensure victims are found and justice is served.

The country’s report on missing persons was only submitted to the Committee on Enforced Disappearances on September 2023, nearly nine years after it was due.

In a months-long investigation, HumAngle found mass graves where dead victims of arbitrary arrests were said to be buried or dumped by the Nigerian military.

HumAngle has also received reports of outright shooting and extortion of family members (of the victims) by members of the military.

Despite the scale of the missing persons problem in Nigeria, there is very little documentation of the problem. The ICRC’s work and the HumAngle Missing Persons dashboard, which contains more than 3,600 documented data on missing persons in the Northeast, are some of the very few bodies of work detailing the issue.

Amnesty International, through its latest move, aims to ensure that justice is served to both victims and their surviving relatives.

“The ECOWAS Court remains one of the few remaining avenues for accountability and justice for victims of enforced disappearances in Nigeria and their families, who deserve to know the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones,” the organisation’s Nigeria Director said on Friday.

“The ECOWAS court can help bring about justice by clearly calling out the human rights violations and the failure of the Nigerian authorities to properly investigate and prosecute,” he added.

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Chigozie Victor

Chigozie Victor is a journalist and a creative writer. Her work focuses on SGBV, policy and security infrastructure. The graduate of English and Literature from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka is passionate about helping audiences understand salient issues through clear reporting and multimedia journalism. She tweets at @nwaanyi_manaria

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