4 August 2009 – The top United Nations human rights official today expressed deep concern over sectarian clashes in northern Nigeria, especially over reports of civilians killed during the fighting between a local Muslim sect and Government troops.According to media reports, more than 800 people have been killed since the Boko Haram sect began an uprising last week.
In a statement issued in Geneva, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also pointed to wide-scale arrests and detentions, as well as people forced to take shelter in barracks for safety, as sources of concern.
“The High Commissioner recognizes that the Government faced a major crisis, with fighting taking place in the heart of the state capitals,” it said. “She hopes, however, that the Government makes every effort to achieve security with full adherence to legality and respect for human rights.”
Ms. Pillay also underscored the need to ensure that all possible measures are taken to prevent unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, calling on the Nigerian Government to investigate all incidents and bring offenders to justice.
“The High Commissioner extends her deepest sympathy to the families of the victims and to the wounded,” said the statement, issued by the spokesperson of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned “the unnecessary loss of human life and the destruction of property as a result of militant attacks.” UN spokesperson Farhan Haq told journalists that Mr. Ban hopes that those behind the attacks “would be identified and brought to justice in accordance with the law.”
Mr. Ban called on the Government, law enforcement, security agencies, and religious and community leaders to coordinate efforts to address “the underlying causes of the frequent religious clashes in Nigeria so that a resolution could be found through dialogue, tolerance and understanding.”
Deadly fighting between Muslims and Christians in the Nigerian city of Jos last November killed several hundred people and displaced thousands of others, sparking a similar statement of concern from the Secretary-General.