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Nigeria urged to prosecute those responsible for recent ethnic violence

[JURIST] The Nigerian government must investigate the recent killings [press release] of more than 200 Christian villagers and prosecute those responsible, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said Monday. Attacks [BBC report] blamed on Muslim herders took place near the city of Jos over the weekend, in apparent retaliation for violence between Muslims and Christians in January. HRW called on acting President Goodluck Jonathan [BBC profile] to "ensure that the military and the police act swiftly to protect civilians of all ethnicities at risk of further attacks or reprisal killings, including by conducting regular patrols throughout the vulnerable region." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said [press release]:

The job facing the security forces and the judiciary is extremely sensitive. It is important to avoid stimulating new resentments, while at the same time ensuring that those responsible for these atrocious acts do not escape justice. This is the third round of deadly violence in the Jos region in three years, leading to a total number of deaths that may exceed 1,000. Clearly, previous efforts to tackle the underlying causes have been inadequate, and in the meantime the wounds have festered and grown deeper
Jonathan responded to the January violence by deploying more troops to the region, but HRW says the patrols have failed to protect many smaller communities.

Last month, HRW urged [JURIST report] Jonathan to to "tackle the culture of impunity" in Nigeria. HRW's letter came just days after Jonathan assumed the presidency [JURIST report] in place of ailing president Umaru Yar'Adua [BBC profile]. Yar'Adua, who suffers from a heart condition [AP report], was taken to a hospital in Saudi Arabia in November. He has since returned to Nigeria [BBC report] but has not resumed his duties as president. While HRW has called on Jonathan directly, other rights groups have petitioned international authorities to take action to prevent recurring rights abuses. Earlier in February, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) [advocacy website] called for [JURIST report] an International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] investigation into the violence that took place in Jos in January. The ICC is considering [JURIST report] the petition.

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