news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: New Reports on Ogoni Crisis
Any links to other sites in this file from 1995 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
However, we hope they may still provide leads for your research.
Nigeria: New Reports on Ogoni Crisis
Date Distributed (ymd): 950713

Human Rights Watch/Africa has released a new report with
first-hand evidence of military repression in the Ogoni
region of Nigeria, including interviews with military
personnel. The trial of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa by a
special tribunal is continuing.

Excerpts from the HRW/Africa press release announcing the
report follows below. A detailed report on the Saro-Wiwa
trial was also released in June by Article 19 (33 Islington
High Street, London N1 9LH. Tel: 44-171-278-9292. Fax: 171-
713-1356). That report is entitled *Nigeria, Fundamental
Rights Denied: Report of the Trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa and
Others*, and was written by Michael Birnbaum QC.

Current information and background is also available from
"The Campaign for Justice for Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa" via the
World Wide Web at:

Human Rights Watch/Africa 485 Fifth Avenue New York, NY
10017-6104 TEL: 212/972-8400 FAX: 212/972-0905 E-mail:

1522 K Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20005 TEL: 202/371-6592
FAX: 202/371-0124 E-mail:

JULY 5, 1995

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION Melissa Crow (202) 371-6592 [w]
(202) 234-9031 [h] Kenneth Roth (44-171) 713-1995 [UK] Janet
Fleischman (202) 371-6592 [w] (301) 565-5257 [h]

The Nigerian military government has been engaged in a
systematic and violent crackdown in the Ogoni region of the
oil-rich Niger Delta, where indigenous communities have
organized in protest against multinational oil companies. In
The Ogoni Crisis: A Case Study of Military Repression in
Southeastern Nigeria, released today, Human Rights
Watch/Africa focuses on the most recent phase of the
repression, which began in late May 1994, following the
murders of four Ogoni leaders believed to have been
pro-government. Human Rights Watch/Africa charges that the
Rivers State Internal Security Task Force embarked on a
series of punitive raids on Ogoni villages, resulting in
extrajudicial executions, shootings, arbitrary arrests,
floggings, rapes and looting which violate Nigeria's
obligations under international law and the Nigerian
Constitution. The new 50-page report also documents attacks
by the security forces on other indigenous communities in
the Niger Delta, where local residents have begun to emulate
the Ogonis' well- organized protests.

The Ogoni people and other communities in the Delta contend
that multinational oil companies, particularly the Shell
Petroleum Development Company, in concert with the Nigerian
government, have ravaged their land and contaminated their
rivers. Shell officials have admitted requesting assistance
from the Nigerian military authorities to defend the
company's installations. Although oil production in
Ogoniland was suspended in mid-1993, the abuses set in
motion by Shell's reliance on military protection there
continue. Based on its investigation in Nigeria and an
ongoing discussion with Royal Dutch/Shell, Human Rights
Watch/Africa has devised a set of basic human rights
principles, presented in the report, and calls on the
multinational oil companies to adhere to them in the course
of their business operations.

The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), led
by Ken Saro-Wiwa, has been at the forefront of the
confrontation between the indigenous communities of the
Niger Delta, the oil companies and the government. Mr.
Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists were detained and are
currently on trial before a three-member special tribunal
appointed by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. The
tribunal, which has the authority to impose the death
penalty, lacks independence and impartiality and has been
the subject of intense international criticism. Faced with
increasing evidence of the tribunal's bias against the
defendants, the defense team has reportedly decided to
withdraw from Saro-Wiwa's case -- to avoid "glorifying the
tribunal which is set up for a pre-determined purpose,"
according to one defense lawyer.

During its three-week mission to Nigeria this year, Human
Rights Watch/Africa also gathered the first-ever testimony
from soldiers who were themselves involved in the military's
punitive campaign in Ogoniland. Soldiers described their
participation in clandestine military raids designed to
appear like communal clashes that would support the
government's fraudulent contention that the violence in the
region was the product of ethnic strife.

Human Rights Watch offers a series of recommendations to the
Nigerian government, the international community and the
multinational oil companies in order to improve the human
rights situation in Nigeria:

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on the Government of Nigeria

1. Order the Rivers State Internal Security Task Force to
cease immediately extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate
shooting, arbitrary arrests and detention, floggings, rapes,
looting, and extortion;

2. Disband the special tribunal established to try those
accused of the May 21, 1994 murders of four Ogoni leaders;

3. Facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of all
detainees held solely for he non-violent expression of their
political beliefs, drop all politically motivated charges
against them, and cease arbitrary detention without charge;

4. Convene an independent commission of inquiry to
investigate the May 21, 1994 murders;

5. Insofar as credible evidence exists for any defendants
accused of complicity in legally recognizable crimes, try
them within a reasonable time before a competent,
independent, and impartial court in compliance with
Nigeria's obligations under international human rights law
and the Nigerian Constitution;

6. Convene independent commissions of inquiry to investigate
the actions of the Internal Security Task Force in Ogoniland
and as yet uninvestigated attacks on other oil-producing

7. Publicly prosecute in accordance with international
standards all members of the Nigerian security forces who
are implicated in violent human rights abuses;

8. Pending conclusion of the prosecutions, suspend members
of the security forces implicated in violent human rights

9. Open Ogoniland to independent observers and human rights
monitors, who should be allowed unimpeded access to the area
without military escort;

10. Open the Kpor and Bori detention centers to independent
monitors and ensure that detention conditions are consistent
with international standards;

11. Provide relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement
assistance to residents of oil-producing areas who have
suffered losses in government-sponsored attacks.

Human Rights Watch/Africa recommends that the international
community press the Nigerian government to implement the
above recommendations through public criticism, active
monitoring of political trials, and policies of aid and
trade. In particular: Member States of the European Union
should adopt a legally binding common position, in
accordance with Article J.2 of the Treaty of Maastricht,
incorporating some of those measures already agreed upon as
"politically binding," namely:
     -suspension of military cooperation,
     -visa restrictions for members of the military and
     security forces who are reliably accused of
     participation in human rights abuses,
     -suspension of visits by members of the military and
     intelligence service,
     -imposition of case-by-case review, with a presumption
     of denial, for all new export license applications for
     defense equipment,
     -cancellation of training courses for all Nigerian
     military personnel,
     -review of new European Union aid projects on a
     case-by-case basis, and
     -suspension of all non-essential high-level visits to
     and from Nigeria.

The European Union and its member states should also promote
compliance by the Nigerian government with international
human rights standards by:

1. Pressing the Nigerian government to implement the above

2. Publicly naming those members of the Nigerian government
to whom visas are denied as a result of their complicity in
human rights violations;

3. Freezing all foreign assets of members of the Nigerian
government who are responsible for serious human rights

4. Moving beyond case-by-case review, with a presumption of
denial, for export license applications for defense
equipment to embargoes on the sale and shipment of arms to
the Nigerian government;

5. Using their leverage in the World Bank, the African
Development Bank, and other international financial
institutions to block all non-"basic human needs" loans and
disbursements to Nigeria;

6. Publicly raising the issue of political prisoners with
the Nigerian government and making efforts to visit
prisoners in detention;

7. Sending observers to the trials of Ken Saro-Wiwa and
other MOSOP activists charged with the May 21, 1994 murders;

8. Urging their embassies to support the efforts of Nigerian
human rights groups by meeting regularly with Nigerian human
rights activists and issuing statements condemning human
rights abuses.

The United States should promote compliance by the Nigerian
government with international human rights standards by:

1. Pressing the Nigerian government to implement the above

2. Rigorously enforcing the existing policy of denying visas
to Nigerians who formulate or implement policies impeding a
transition to democracy in Nigeria or who benefit from such
policies, as well as the immediate families of such persons;

3. Rigorously enforcing the existing policy of case-by-case
review of commercial military sales, with the presumption of
denial, and moving beyond this policy to an embargo of all
arms sales and shipments to Nigeria.

4. Implementing other policies consistent with those
recommended for the European Union and its member states.

[Similar measures are called for by Commonwealth member
states, African governments and the United Nations.]

Human Rights Watch/Africa calls on Royal Dutch/Shell and
other multinational oil companies operating in Nigeria to
adhere to a set of basic human rights principles in the
course of their business operations. By virtue of their
influence in Nigeria and their participation in joint
ventures in which the government is a principal stakeholder,
the multinational oil companies are well placed to convey
their concern about Nigeria's rapidly deteriorating human
rights record in the course of their business dealings with
local, state, and federal authorities. Because the Nigerian
security forces have often employed grossly abusive measures
to quell protests by residents of oil-producing areas
against the activities of the multinational oil companies,
the oil companies have a particular responsibility to
address abuses perpetrated in th is context. Human Rights
Watch/Africa encourages the multinational oil companies to:

1. Appoint responsible high-ranking corporate officials to
monitor the use of force by the Nigerian military in the
oil-producing areas and to denounce the use of unjustified
or excessive force;

2. Urge the Nigerian government to allow nonviolent freedom
of association and expression, particularly with respect to
grievances directed against the oil industry;

3. Publicly and privately call upon the Nigerian government
to restrain the use of armed force in the oil-producing

4. Publicly and privately condemn human rights abuses by the
Nigerian security forces in the areas where the companies
are operating;

5. Urge the Nigerian government to cease arbitrary detention
of peaceful protesters and to release all individuals held
for the nonviolent expression of their political beliefs;

6. Protest the Abacha government's dissolution of the
governing bodies of the oil workers' unions and detention of
oil union leaders without charge or trial, and press the
government for their reinstatement;

7. Shell and Chevron should refuse to resume production in
Ogoniland until the Nigerian government has ceased human
rights abuses against the Ogoni, has conducted an
independent investigation of military and police activities
in Ogoniland, has publicized the results, and has brought to
trial those who directed and carried out violent abuses, and
has disbanded the special tribunal established to try Ken
Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP activists.

Copies of the report are available from the Publications
Department, Human Rights Watch, 485 Fifth Avenue, New York,
NY 10017 for $6.00 (domestic) and $7.50 (international).

Human Rights Watch/Africa Human Rights Watch is a
nongovernmental organization established in 1978. Robert L.
Bernstein is the chair of the board and Adrian W. DeWind is
vice chair. Its Africa division was established in 1988 to
monitor and promote the observance of internationally
recognized human rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Abdullahi
An-Na'im is the executive director; Janet Fleischman is the
Washington director; Alex Vines is the research associate;
Kimberly Mazyck is the associate; Alison DesForges, Kirsti
Lattu, Bronwen Manby and Lynn Welchman are consultants.
William Carmichael is the chair of the advisory committee
and Alice Brown is the vice chair.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's
primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the
United States around African issues and the U.S. role
in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a
wide range of groups and individuals. APIC is
affiliated with the Washington Office on Africa (WOA),
a not-for-profit church, trade union and civil rights
group supported organization that works with Congress
on Africa-related legislation.


URL for this file: