BreakingNews 28/9/16 - Public Awareness On Managing Peaceful Assemblies In Nigeria And Dangers Posed By Security Forces And Print Media

[ Masterweb Reports: Intersociety reports ] - (Intersociety: Onitsha Nigeria, 26th of September 2016)-It shocks and alarms us on continuous basis concerning orchestrated and systematic stigmatization and criminalization of the citizens’ rights to freedom of association, expression, movement, personal liberty and fair hearing by the Nigerian Security Forces and unprofessional print media; particularly since the inception of the Government of Gen Muhammadu Buhari. Despite the enshrinement of these fundamental human rights and their justiciability (S.46), on account of their containment in Sections 40, 39, 41, 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended in 2011; they have suffered gross brutalization and bastardization in the hands of the Security Forces and unprofessional print media.
 
 
Apart from the above constitutional guarantees and protections in the 1999 Constitution, they are also fully recognized by the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights of 1981 (ACHPR), the UN Covenant on Civil & Political Rights of 1976 (ICCPR) as well as the Basic Standard of International Law& Humanitarian Principles of the United Nations; a driving force of the Principles and Purposes of the United Nations. The latter not only recognize the rights of the citizens of the Member-States of the UN including Nigeria, to peaceful assemblies and expressions, but also outline ways through which their exercises shall be managed or responded to by security forces.  As all are aware, Nigeria ratified ICCPR in 1993 and ratified and domesticated the ACHPR in 1983. Nigeria is also bound morally and legally by the Fundamental Rules of the United Nations including the basic standard of International Law and Humanitarian Principles as well as the Purposes and Purposes of the United Nations.
 
 
For instance,  under the ten basic standards of international law made mandatory for security forces of Member-States of the UN for the management of civil assemblies and free speeches as well as arrest, detention and prosecution of citizens accused of commission of municipal crimes of whatever code definition; following key directives are provided: (1) treat all victims of crime with compassion and respect, and in particular protect their safety and privacy; (2) avoid using force when policing unlawful but nonviolent assemblies; (3) when dispersing violent assemblies, use force only to the minimum extent necessary (i.e. in line with proportionate use of force and avoidance of application of excessive force on non-military necessity).
 
 
Others are (4) arrest no person unless there are legal wounds to do so and ensure that the arrest is carried out in accordance with lawful arrest procedures; (5) ensure that all detainees have access, promptly after arrest to their families and legal representatives and to any necessary medical assistance; (6) all detainees must be treated humanly and humanely and avoid infliction, instigation or toleration of any act of torture in any circumstance and refuse to obey order to do so; (7) do not carry out, order or cover up extrajudicial executions  or disappearances of the arrested or the detained  and refuse to obey any order to do so; (8) etc.
 
 
Sadly, these sacred international rules and obligations and their sister provisions in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended in 2011; are not only observed in gross breach by the security forces and unprofessional print media in Nigeria but have also faced systematic patterns of stigmatization and criminalization to the extent they are now classified as military necessity, warranting militarized and violent responses or actions including mass murder or massacre of proponents of peaceful assemblies and free speeches and injuring of others.
 
 
Others are: unjust arrest and detention of unarmed and innocent citizens without trial; indiscriminate pre-trial or custodial killings, torture and disappearances. Today, the Nigerian Security Forces, fully backed by a presidential death code issued by President Muhammadu Buhari; erroneously and mischievously tagged: rules of engagement of the Nigerian Armed Forces; place high security priority on peaceful assemblies and free speeches than the activities of terrorist organizations or violent armed opposition groups like Boko Haram and Fulani Janjaweed (Herdsmen).
 
 
As a matter of fact, the Buhari Administration does not consider the violent activities of the Fulani Janjaweed, which lead to massacre of hundreds of unarmed and innocent Nigerians almost on weekly bsis as a public security threat requiring military actions under the UN’s Rules of Engagement or the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Four Protocols of 1977.
 
 
The most abominable and unforgiving of it all is the Nigerian Security Forces deliberate application or use of war-time military approaches or methodologies in managing civil assemblies and democratic free speeches. For the purpose of setting the records straight, civil or peaceful assemblies and free speeches, no matter their intents, are purely non-military or non-war or nonviolent affairs or conducts and are totally devoid of military necessity, warranting State violent approaches or use of force, not to talk of excessive application of State force or violence.
 
 
That is to say that the Rules of Engagement of the UN and International Law recognition and definition are strictly applied in war or conflict situations. Just like we have severally educated publicly, the Rules of Engagement, which are presently corrupted and bastardized by the Nigerian Armed Forces (including the Army, Police, DSS, Navy, etc), are strictly applicable in international or internal armed conflict; otherwise referred to as complex humanitarian emergencies.  
 
 
Key features of the internationally standardized Rules of Engagement, strictly applied in war or conflict situations  are (1) legitimate use of force, (2) proportionality of use of force, (3) legitimate self defense, (4) treatment of prisoners of war or conflict, (5) avoidance of attacks on non-military necessity or civilian targets or properties, (6) avoidance of attacks on civilians or non-combatants, (7) treatment of the wounded, (8) avoidance of attacks on culture symbols or places of worship, (9) avoidance of attacks on humanitarian agencies and personnel/human rights activists; (10) treatment of other peoples of the war (i.e. spies and journalists).
 
 
The Rules of Engagement are the integral part of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Four Protocols of 1977; and originally came from the three war doctrines of Jus Ad Bellum (justification and ground for going to war); Jus In Bellum (ethical rules of conduct during war, such as ethical standards expected of soldiers in wartime or rules of engagement); and Jus Post Bellum (regulations on how wars are ended and facilitation of transition from war to peace).
 
 
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