Baroness Cox, alongside 19 co-signatories, has written to Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC to highlight urgent concerns about escalating violence in Nigeria, where attacks led by Boko Haram, Fulani herders and other Islamist militia continue in northern and central-belt states, with reports of increasing violence in the southeast.
The letter reads
We write to highlight urgent concerns about escalating violence in Nigeria, where attacks led by Boko Haram, Fulani herders and other Islamist militia continue in northern and central-belt states, with reports of increasing violence in the southeast.
• According to a report by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, entitled ‘Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?’, thousands of civilians have been killed and elements of the Nigerian Government may be complicit in violence.
• The APPG’s concerns reflect the findings of a report by Amnesty International, ‘We dried our tears: Addressing the toll on children of Northeast Nigeria’s conflict’, which concludes that the Nigerian armed forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during their operations.
• The Nigerian army’s former Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma, whom some of us have met and spoken to, says the armed forces are “not neutral; they collude” in the “ethnic cleansing in… riverine states” by Fulani herders. He insists that villagers must defend themselves because “depending on the armed forces” will result in them dying “one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop.”
The State’s failure to protect its citizens is a clear breach of its obligations under the Commonwealth Charter in respect of human rights. There is now an urgent need (a) to ensure adequate protection and aid for those suffering the loss of family members and the destruction of their homes and livelihoods; and (b) to end impunity by ensuring that complaints related to human rights violations are promptly, independently and impartially investigated, and those responsible are held to account after fair trials.
We write, therefore, to ask whether you are able to respond on behalf of The Commonwealth and to raise these urgent concerns with the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. We would be very willing to meet in person (or perhaps more practically, online via zoom) to discuss how we might proceed.
The letter is signed by
- Baroness Cox
- Lord Alton of Liverpool
- Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws QC
- Jim Shannon MP
- Fiona Bruce MP
- Lord Williams of Oystermouth, Archbishop of Canterbury 2002-2012
- Lord Carey of Clifton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1991-2002
- Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Lord Bishop of Coventry
- Philip Mounstephen, Lord Bishop of Truro
- Lord Stoddart of Swindon
- Lord Anderson of Swansea
- Lord Cormack
- Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
- Ayo Adedoin, International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice
- Ewelina Ochab, Coalition for Genocide Response
- Mervyn Thomas, CSW
- Dr Khataza Gondwe, CSW
- Neville Kyrke-Smith, Aid to the Church in Need (UK)
- Dr John Eibner, Christian Solidarity International
- Ann Buwalda, Jubilee Campaign
The letter has prompted a media backlash in Nigeria.
One slightly more encouraging response, in an article headed FG denies persecuting Christians was as follows:
“The President and government of Nigeria welcome the seriousness of the letter from UK lawmakers, legal experts and campaigners. We ask our British colleagues to visit Nigeria, whether formally or informally, to discuss all the points raised in their letter.”
There was support from Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA):
British Parliamentary Action Against Nigerian Genocides Of Christians Is Most Appropriate-: