By Innocent Anaba

A civil rights organisation, Partnership for Justice, PJ, has   raised concern over the blocking of the reading of a human rights report on arrest and secret detentions around the world at the 13th session of United Nations Human Rights Council scheduled to hold from March 1- 30, 2010 in Geneva, Switzerland.

PJ, according to its Managing Partner, Mrs Itoro Eze-Anaba, noted that the “public condemnation of secret detention is the only way that secret abuse of human rights can be eradicated worldwide and victims compensated for violations”.

It will be recalled that Nigeria, leading other African countries, and Organisation of Islamic Countries, OIC, blocked the reading of  human rights report on arrest and secret detentions around the world at the UN Human Rights Council slated for March in Geneva.

The joint report was carried out by  “the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and  the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on secret detentions

In a letter sent to the President of the Human Rights Council on behalf of the African Group, the Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland and Chair of the African Group sought to dismiss the report, which contains substantive information relating to the practice of secret detentions around the world based on procedural grounds, arguing that there was no specific decision mandating the Special Procedures to carry out the report.
However, the President of the Council faulted the position of Nigeria, saying that the study falls within the mandates of the Special Rapporteuurs as established by the Human Rights Council and in accordance with specific reports requested by the resolutions of the Human Rights Council. The President said that Mandate holders have the right, in accordance with their responsibilities as set out in the Code of Conduct, to assess the human rights questions they are called upon to examine under their mandate.

The 221 page report focused on the use of secret detention centres around the world and states that secret detention is irreconcilable with international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Secret detention amounts to a manifold human rights violation that cannot be justified under any circumstances including during states of emergency.

According to the report, secret detention violates the rights to liberty of the person, and  the right to fair trial and every instance of secret detention also amounts to a case of enforced disappearance. Secret detention violates the prohibition against torture and other forms of ill treatment and the suffering caused to family members of a disappeared person may also amount to torture and other forms of ill treatment and violates the right to family life.

The report also called for amendment of domestic laws to include penalties for officials who refuse to disclose information about secret detention and secret places of detention and emphasizes the importance of immediate reporting to relatives on the whereabouts and legal as well as health status of the victims. It also recommends the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to monitor compliance with international human rights standards.   But PJ, in a statement said it was concerned about the position of Nigeria and African Group on this issue and believes that this report should be heard publicly, adding that it is even more concerned considering the role played by security agencies in the country, especially during elections.

The group meanwhile, strongly condemned the position of Nigeria and called on the Federal Government to endorse the reading of the report and show its support for the Human Rights Council and the important work of the Special Procedures, who are working to promote and protect human rights worldwide.

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