UN rights office calls on Nigeria to address renewed ethnic, religious violence

9 September 2011

The United Nations human rights office today called on authorities in Nigeria to address the renewed ethnic and religious violence in the country, including by curbing hate speech and encouraging reconciliation among various communities.

“We are concerned about the renewed violence, which has flared up in Nigeria’s ‘Middle Belt’ in recent weeks causing death, injury and destruction,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Up to 70 people have reportedly been killed since the beginning of August in ethnic and religious violence in the area, the High Commissioner’s office (OHCHR) said in a news release.

This includes the killing of 10 people in clashes between Christian and Muslim youths and the military in Jos from early to mid-August. At least two more were hacked to death, and four others seriously wounded in a village near Jos.

“We encourage the authorities at national and local levels to take effective preventative measures against such violence, including by curbing hate-speech and working with civil society, including human rights NGOs [non-governmental organizations], religious leaders and academic institutions, to attempt reconciliation between the various communities,” Mr. Colville told reporters in Geneva.

“It is of utmost importance that justice is done and is seen to be done by prosecuting the alleged perpetrators of violence and ensuring remedies for victims and their families,” he added.

In addition, Mr. Colville stressed that security forces must “act in full compliance with the law, in an even-handed manner,” when responding to outbreaks of violence in the country to avoid possible making the situation worse.

He also voiced concern about the activities of the extremist Islamist group known as Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for the recent bombing of the UN offices in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

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