Amnesty International (AI) has asked the federal government to immediately release “thousands of people” who have been subjected to enforced disappearance in various parts of the country.
The human rights watchdog said a lot of Nigerians are being held in secret detention facilities across the country without being tried before any court of law.
It said this in a statement issued by Isa Sanusi, its spokesman, to mark the International Day of the disappeared.
AI accused the federal government of employing enforced disappearance as a “longstanding tactic to silence critics and instill fear in civilian populations” in different parts of the country.
“So many families are still searching for loved ones who have not been seen for many years,” Osai Ojigho, AI director in Nigeria, said in the statement.
. In some cases, families live with the pain of not knowing whether their loved ones are alive or dead
“It’s time the government did the right thing – and either release these detainees or charge them with a recognizable criminal offence in a fair trial without recourse to death penalty.”
AI added that some detainees have been held incommunicado “for up to nine years or more”, without access to family or lawyers while others are still being detained despite court rulings ordering their release from custody.
It cited the case of Jones Abiri who was was in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) for two years without access to family members or lawyers.
It also cited the case of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) whose members, reportedly about 600, their whereabouts remain unknown since clashes with the military in December 2015 in Zaria, Kaduna state.
“Hundreds of people suspected of belonging to or being associated with Boko Haram and/or its affiliates, the Niger Delta agitators or pro-Biafra activists in the south-east of the country, have been arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained by DSS in recent years,” the statement added.
“Across parts of north-east affected by Boko Haram conflict, thousands of detainees have been subjected to enforced disappearance, placing them outside the protection of law. Families of those affected have been left without knowing the fate of their loved ones.
“We call on the Nigerian government, as a matter of urgency, to end unlawful arrests and incommunicado detentions. Enforced disappearance is an instrument of intimidation that grossly violates human rights. It is unacceptable and must stop.”