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Global rights group calls for investigations into death of Shi’ite members, others in unlawful detention

ON Monday, the global human rights group Amnesty International announced that at least three members of the Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN, have died in police custody while 15 members of the group, including minors, have been in detention since the July 22 protest.

Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, in a statement, expressed concerns about the inhumane treatment meted out to some of the protesters which led to their death.

“We have information confirming that three protesters died of gunshot wounds at a detention facility in Abuja after being denied medical treatment. Their death, while in police custody, sends a chilling message about the authorities’ use of lethal force to stifle dissent and their contempt for people’s right to access medical care,” she said.

The Shi’ite protesters, who were calling for the release of their leader, accused the police of shooting at unarmed protesters, but the police have also blamed the IMN for engaging in violent protests.

Ojigho said at least 15 other protesters who also have been detained by the police needed urgent medical treatment for life-threatening wounds sustained from gunshots.

“The protesters who are being held at the SARS detention facility are in critical condition and need immediate access to medical care. Any denial of such access is a violation of their human rights. The Nigerian authorities must not allow more people to die in police custody before they act.”

She said witnesses confirmed to the global rights group that a team of armed policemen in two Hilux vehicles had stormed the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, to round up alleged injured IMN members with varying degrees of gunshot wounds.

Amongst the injured detainees were two minors and two women held in the same cell.

“There can be no justification whatsoever for firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters, nor for imprisoning them for merely exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Ojigho said.

She called for an independent and impartial inquiry into the 22 July protest to investigate the killing of 11 protesters, Deputy Commissioner of Police Usman Umar and Channels TV reporter, Precious Owolabi.

Stating an independent investigation would reveal those responsible for the violence and avoidable deaths that occurred and allow for prosecution of those responsible in fair trials.

“The Nigerian police must immediately and unconditionally release all detained IMN members who have not been charged with a recognisable offence,  bring them before a competent civilian judicial authority, promptly investigate in an independent and impartial manner the deaths of the three detainees in police custody and bring to justice those suspected of wrongdoing,” she said.

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