In its quest to sensitize field officers and Nigerians involved in the area of collecting data and information on human rights issues, international human rights group, Global Amnesty Watch (GAW) has announced a collaboration with Nigerian based civil society organisations to hold a one day seminar on human rights reporting and it’s implication on the war against terror.
The seminar with the theme “Counter Insurgency: Human Rights and Good Governance in the context of the Nigerian Situation” is expected to attract security experts from around the world to share their experiences in the war on terror and human rights abuses.
Addressing a joint press conference by GAW and Conscience Nigeria, Mrs Helen Adesola, Country Rep, GAW said the seminar became necessary because of the important role of those who work in the areas of collecting data and information on human rights abuses.
She said experience has shown that rather than improving human rights issues, some of the fact finding intervention end up worsening the situation for local populations in the affected areas as armed groups and insurgents tend to exploit the incapacitation of defence forces each time reports are issued to criminalize legitimate law and security enforcement.
She blamed the trend on what she termed as use of “distorted templates” by field workers.
According to her, though this distortion is nothing deliberate or any fault of these people who put themselves at great risks to undertake activities they rightly believe would reshape the world for the better especially as it pertain to governance and human right issues.
She said, “The distortion in our view, is the product of entrenched systems that built in discrimination in a manner that allow different yardsticks to apply to different countries depending on the economic and military power they wield.
This, in some cases, created a situation where field workers start of their work from biased premises, having been handed shopping lists or formatted checklists that they must conform with even when the reality they meet on site loudly differ from the preconceived conclusion and recommendations they have been programmed to arrive at.
She said, however that efforts must be made to ensure that government forces operate within rules of engagement or are made to embrace rules of engagement if that has not been the case previously.
She disclosed that GAW will be collaborating with Nigerian based CSOs such as Conscience Nigeria, the Centre for Social Justice, Equity and Transparency (CESJET), Stand Up for Nigeria (SUN) for the event.
She raised concern that the distortion of information is further amplified when citizens are influence by the reports produced from such bias to think of themselves and their countries only in derogatory terms on one side of the scale while citizens of dominating countries think of themselves and their countries in superior terms, as people with the right to interfere in the affairs of others to secure both their economies and geo-regional interests.
“As the Defence forces of countries are being urged to adhere to rules of engagement, it is pertinent that those who monitor compliance with such charters are themselves not allowed to go rogue in their activities as this could open them up to becoming tools for agenda that may not augur well for the population in the area of interest.
“Organizations that monitor compliance with human rights and governance issues must therefore adopt something similar to rules of engagement – strict vetting of interviewees and witnesses, ensuring onsite visits, resorting to telephone interview only as a last resort, ruling out conflict of interest for witnesses, insulation against the interests and biases of state actors are among the items that should make such proposed charter,” Adesola said.
Top dignitaries expected to grace the occasion includes George Goldsmith from the Pentagon, an ex CIA expert in anti-terrorism campaign, who would be speaking on the role of non state actors in conflicts management; David Falt who is a Lawyer and working for the United Nations will be speaking on Human Rights Law and Conventions in winning the war against terrorism whilst Alexandra Thome would be discussing how the thin lines between extremism, terrorism and separatism in Africa are.
The event is to be chaired by Prof Danfulani who is former Director General of NIPSS, while the Director General National Orientation Agency is to deliver a keynote address and to be declared opened by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Kpotum Idris and our Special Guests are Governor of Bauchi, Gombe state, Director General, NIMASA and Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration.