Nigeria: Fully investigate torture and killing of four Uniport students by mob
On 5 October 2012, graphic photographs of four people killed by a mob in Rivers State, one of Nigeria's 36 states flooded social media. The four people killed were reportedly students of the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport). The photographs - too graphic to publish on this blog - shed light on so-called jungle law in Nigeria and utter disregard for human life.
According to news reports, the students were brutally killed in Aluu Community of Port Harcourt on allegations of theft. Aluu community has reportedly been targeted over the past couple of months by armed robbers and the students were suspected of being linked to the robberies.
Some argue that many Nigerians have lost confidence in the criminal justice system due to endemic bribery and corruption, hence people take the laws into their own hands. In 2010, Human Rights Watch reported that institutionalized corruption in Nigeria's police force fuels human rights abuses. The killing of four students in River State sheds more light on how lack of confidence in the police force fuels human rights violations.
The torture, degrading treatment and gruesome killings must be condemned in the strongest terms - regardless of the motive.
Mob justice has no place in a civilized society. The right to life and freedom from torture are absolute rights. No individual, government or community should have the power to torture and kill suspected or guilty criminals. The government of Nigeria has an obligation under international and national law to protect all persons within its borders from torture and arbitrary killing by vigilante community groups operating outside the law. The federal government should investigate the killings and hold all those involved accountable. Thirteen people have been arrested in relation to the killings. This is a move in the right direction but a lot more should be done to stamp out jungle law and restore confidence in law enforcement in Nigeria. Perhaps the authorities should also investigate why the police did not respond in time to stop the killing. The four students were stripped naked, paraded on the streets, beaten and burnt alive. Law enforcement had enough time to intervene but failed to do so.
Aluu community members should reject such barbarism carried out in the name of "protecting" the community. Looking at photos of the killings, it is disturbing to see members of the community standing on the sidelines - watching the killing unfold. The photographs reveal that many of the bystanders and participants in this heinous crime were young people - Nigeria's future. What a shame. Young people should be flag-bearers of change and a better future for Nigeria; not perpetrators or supporters of mob justice and other horrific acts.
Nigeria has laws and a criminal justice system. Suspected criminals should be prosecuted through legal channels. People should not take the laws into their own hands. All those involved in brutal killings on the streets in the name of "protecting" the community should bear the full weight of the law.
It is worth mentioning that "mob justice", a perfect example of man's inhumanity to man, is not peculiar to Nigeria. This archaic form of punishment is meted out in many other countries around the world. Regardless of where and why it happens, it is wrong and unjustifiable.
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Born and raised in a middle class family with strong Christian values in Cameroon, Central Africa, I learned quickly that all natural persons are born free and equal in rights. I graduated from the University of Buea with a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree, and received a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree in International Human Rights Law and International Labour Rights from Lund University, Sweden. My passion is in promoting human rights and the rule of law. I'm a married proud daddy of two.