13 September 2011

Nigeria: Lawyers Demand Compensation From Libya

Photo: Fred Abrahams/Human Rights Watch
About 30 Nigerians are living in cramped quarters in Tripoli’s Grigaresh neighborhood, afraid to go outside due to harassment and arrests of sub-Saharan Africans.

A Lagos-based human rights organization has lodged a petition with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, calling for an immediate halt to violence against Nigerians in Libya.

Black Africans are being targeted by Libyans who accuse them of having been mercenaries deployed by Muammar Gaddafi during the recent uprising. The alarm was raised by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International last month after both organizations found evidence of arbitrary arrests and targeted arrests of sub-Saharan Africans.

Among the black Africans stranded in Libya are thousands of Nigerian economic migrants. Concerned for their countrymen in Libya, the Lagos-based human rights organization, Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project, have filed a petition to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

"We are expecting the African Commission to respond later this week. We have called on the NTC to compensate the victims' families and to forestall further discriminatory treatment of black Africans in Libya," explains Adetokunbo Mumuni, executive director of SERAP.

And if the NTC does not respond: "SERAP will inform the International Criminal Court of the atrocities. The Court will be asked to consider the acts as crimes against humanity, for which the perpetrators should be made to face trial. It will then become an issue taken out of the African continent to the international sphere," according to Mumuni.

Foreign policy

Relations between Nigeria and the Gaddafi regime became strained last year when the former colonel suggested Nigeria should be divided along religious lines. This resulted in Nigeria recalling its ambassador from Tripoli.

Shortly after fighting broke out in Libya, six Nigerians were killed by soldiers in Gaddafi's army. The victims had been on their way to Tripoli to be evacuated by Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency.

Nigeria went against the initial consensus of the African Union by recognising the NTC almost immediately.


Events in Libya are being followed by many Nigerians. On the streets of Lagos, reaction to the news that Nigerians are among those targeted by forces loyal to the NTC, were mixed.

Nkechi Naeche was very surprised by the news: "I'm surprised at this because the Nigerian government were among the first countries to recognise the transitional government. But I am also surprised that Nigerians stayed behind after the government sent aircrafts to bring them back home when situations in Libya were becoming uncertain."

However, some passersby expressed sympathy with the NTC recognizing that rebuilding a nation after conflict is not easy: "Nigeria should not place any demands on Libya. The acts were in a state of war, Libya was unstable then, so the caretaker government just settling down should not be saddled with this issue that will divert it from reconstruction," says Ms Olaoye-Oshikolu.

SERAP is also requesting the African Commission to order the NTC to pay compensation to the families of the six Nigerians who died in Libya. But as Raymond Tedunjaye concludes: "If compensation is sought, no matter if it is paid in dollars, naira or goods, will it equate to the cost of a human life?

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