by Dare Lawal
Following claims by the minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, that Amnesty International (AI) apologised to the federal government over ‘factual errors’ contained in its 2012 report, the organisation has forcefully denied the claims and accused the minister of spreading falsehood.
Ashiru had said during an international conference on ‘Human Rights, Human Security and Conflict’ organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) in Abuja, that “When Amnesty was here, they said they were sorry; if you are sorry, you say it outside, let people know. I have given them the invitation to come and open an office so that when they write, it will be factual.”
But AI, through its deputy Africa director, Lucy Freeman, in response to an inquiry by Premium Times, expressed deep disappointment over the claims by the minister because “Amnesty International has never – publicly nor privately – apologised for any of the contents of the report and stands by its research, conclusions and findings, 100 per cent.
“In a meeting with the Attorney General in Abuja on 1 August 2013, Amnesty International reiterated its concerns about grave human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces and received assurances from government that it was conducting investigations into them.”
Freeman said that the government should shun spreading falsehood and instead demonstrate “its commitment to human rights by investigating credible and serious allegations of human rights violations by its security forces.”
This is not the first time that AI is tackling the FG over this same report. Following the release of the report in November 2012, the FG had condemned it. AI had at the time hit back saying, “The attack by senior Nigerian officials on an Amnesty International report that documents human rights violations by the country’s police and military is a diversionary tactic – shooting the messenger when the security forces should really be concentrating on putting their house in order,” the statement read.
“The Nigerian government and the security forces should recognize that the population will not be truly secure until everyone in Nigeria can be confident not only that the risk of attacks from Boko Haram has been reduced, but also that they will not face human rights violations at the hands of the very state security forces mandated with their protection.”