[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] published [press release] a report [official summary; text, PDF] on Thursday that exposes years of mass killings in the regions of Kaduna and Plateau in Nigeria and alleges the Nigerian government has ignored the consequences of severe ethnic and religious conflict. The report, entitled “Leave Everything to God,” argues the Nigerian government has done little in the past three years to punish known murderers or implement justice, despite efforts by victims’ families to identify the perpetrators. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, split almost equally between Muslims and Christians. The report identifies travesties in the Middle Belt region where the northern Kaduna State, which is largely Muslim, meets the largely Christain Plateau State. HRW believes the Nigerian government’s reaction to the violence is not sufficient to punish wrongdoers or deter future killings: “Nigerian authorities have often treated mass killings as a political problem rather than address them as a criminal matter. They set up commissions of inquiry, which are good in theory, but in practice have become a way to reinforce impunity, as authorities then abdicate their responsibility for investigating and prosecuting the crimes.” HRW argues inaction by the Nigerian government will perpetuate the violence, as sectarian groups use revenge to enact their own form of justice and retribution.
Widespread violence is an issue of critical importance in Nigeria, and the president of the country, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency [CNN Report] in three of Nigeria’s states, as the nation works to combat terrorism and acts of violence aimed at governmental officials and citizens. A major threat is the Islamist militant group Boko Haram [BBC Backgrounder], which has targeted both Christians and Muslims in northern Nigeria. In October Amnesty International urged [JURIST report] the Nigerian government to investigate detainee deaths at the hands of the country’s Joint Task Force. Also in October a rights group within Nigeria, the Socio-Economic and Rights Accountability Project, filed a petition [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate an attack at a school in northeast Nigeria. In August the ICC announced an investigation [JURIST report] into crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram.