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Human Rights Abuses By Security Agents

Rivers: Group Condemns Human Rights Abuses By Security Agents

THE Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (IHRHL), one of the leading human rights groups in the Niger Delta, Nigeria's main oil and gas region, says it is concerned with the unrelenting gross abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens in Rivers State.

The latest on the degrading score sheet, according to the group, ''is the horse whipping, beating and brutalization of a renowned principled investigative journalist, Mr. Ibanga Isine , Rivers State Bureau Chief of the Punch Newspapers''.

The Programme Officer of the group's Conflict Transformation and Access to Justice Unit, Mr. Amselm Kpokpo, said in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, yesterday that Ibanga’s offence was that he was walking back from a restaurant, close to his residence in the D/Line area of the capital city, on November 11, and was unfortunate to meet police officials on patrol, ''who ordinarily are considered in civilized environments, as friends and protectors, rather than rights abusers and slaughterers''

For the IHRHL, ''the torture, inhuman and degrading treatment meted out to a well known journalist of Mr. Isine’s stature, is symptomatic of the extent to which security of life and property in the state, has degenerated, and the hapless experiences which countless of ‘lesser’ members of the state helplessly undergo on hourly basis, most of which information are not available to the public''.

''It is noteworthy that this very serious attack coincided with the recent threat posed to the person of Mr. Isine and his publication by a Local Government Chairman, following a news story he reported in regard to victims of rape incident by gun-carrying young men, against female members of National Youth Service Corp, serving in the area'', the group said.

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Continuing, the IHRHL said it was taking into account the fact that police action in the state has become ''most militaristic in nature, in the name of chase for militants without significant success'', and seriously called on the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bala Hassan, to urgently address the debilitating issue of police militancy against law abiding citizens, that veers outside police procedure, and lack complete due process.

According to them, ''in the operational strategy of the Police and Joint Military Task Force (JTF) today, citizens are presumed militants, especially when they are seen out in the evenings, who must be abused, tortured and degraded, until they prove otherwise. Experience in the past has shown that this level of incivility against citizens, had beget further violence from members of the public. In the long run, this does not positively further police work but alienates it from the peoples and communities it is expected to serve. A police force that is speedily becoming a law unto itself, betrays its essence of existence under the Constitution, and must be curtailed''.

The IHRHL further calls on the Commissioner of Police, to urgently identify the culprits of the bestial act upon Mr. Isine, and punish them accordingly, failing which the group said it will not hesitate to follow every legitimate legal procedure within the ambit of its free legal services, in the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of the victim, without further delay

They are also calling on members of the general public never to allow themselves to be subdued or intimidated by the fiery and violent nature of either the Police or the JTF, but report all incidents of past, present and future abuses of rights and freedoms to all known human rights organisation within and outside the state hence, adding, ''human rights abuse to one, is human rights abuse to all. You may be the next victim''.

ENDS

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