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Nigeria Still Weak on Human Rights


FILE - People stand outside burned houses following an attack by Islamic militants in Gambaru, a city in Nigeria's Borno state, May 11, 2014.

As in previous years, the 2014 report on the state of human rights in Nigeria remains concerning.

Each year, the U.S. State Department sends Congress detailed reports assessing respect for human rights around the world. They evaluate how governments show respect for human dignity and individual freedoms, and they help shape our nation’s foreign policies. The reports also signal to human rights defenders and activists under siege that the U.S. recognizes their struggle and stands with them.

For far too many people, 2014 was defined by suffering and abuse perpetrated by terrorist groups like Boko Haram that exploit religious discourse and divisions to advance their destructive ideology. Meanwhile, governments in China, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others continued to stifle a free press and the development of civil society by jailing journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics.

As in previous years, the 2014 report on the state of human rights in Nigeria remains concerning. Last year, Boko Haram conducted many attacks on government and civilian targets throughout the country. It caused thousands of deaths and injuries, widespread destruction, internal displacement of citizens, and the flight of more than 100,000 refugees abroad. Responding to the group’s terror campaign, and at times to crime in general, security services perpetrated extrajudicial killings and engaged in torture, rape, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, and destruction of property.

The country also suffered from widespread societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious attacks. Other serious human rights problems included vigilante killings; prolonged pretrial detention; denial of fair public trial; government influence on the judiciary; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and movement; and official corruption.

Impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government brought few individuals to justice for abuses and corruption, and authorities did not investigate the majority of cases of police or military abuse or punish perpetrators.

There is no self-importance or arrogance in preparing this and other reports. We in the United States have seen our own share of racial discord and unrest recently, so we approach this with great self-awareness. But we also understand that with regard for human rights, every country-—including our own—-has room to improve.

We’re committed to advancing universal rights, building partnerships that will move us forward, and helping every man, woman and child live up to their potential. And in cases like Nigeria, we are also committed to speaking out for those unable to do so themselves.

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