The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has charged President Muhammadu Buhari to push for a joint EU-AU international commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of slave auction in Libya.
According to SERAP, the ongoing European Union-African Union summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, presents an opportunity for President Buhari to call for the commission of inquiry, especially given the appalling plight of several Nigerians who are among those trapped in Libya.
In a statement sent on Wednesday by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP maintained that Nigerian and other African victims of abuses in Libya are crying out for leadership.
It stressed that given Nigeria’s leadership role in the region, “President Buhari can and should provide greater leadership to push European and African leaders to go beyond merely condemning the atrocities and act swiftly to end the shocking abuses, remove Nigerians and other African women, men and children still trapped in Libya from harm’s way, and guarantee their safety and well-being,”
It added that “the international community has so far failed to heed the call for action to end the on-going abuses in Libya, and Nigerians and other African women, men and children are paying for this failure with their lives.
“Africa now needs strong and principled leadership to address the situation, and we believe Nigeria can and should lead the way. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also critical if Nigeria wants to remain relevant in regional and international affairs. The next two days will reveal whether Nigeria is up to the test.
“European and African leaders need to take urgent and strong action in response to the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya. Buhari should press the summit to request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to urgently dispatch humanitarian teams to Libya to help those trapped there to leave the country in a safe and humane manner.
“How many more Nigerians and other African women, men and children must die in Libya before European and African leaders take concrete and meaningful action to end the atrocities? Nigeria and other AU members should collectively push the proposed initiatives at the summit and say ‘enough!’
“There are serious allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law against Nigerians and other African women, men and children in Libya with absolute impunity.
“Family members are denied access to their loved ones or even information on the fate of Nigerians and other African citizens trapped in Libya. Nigerians and other African citizens trapped in Libya cannot afford to wait any longer for African leaders to end their suffering.
“Any such commission of inquiry should be given the mandate to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the slave auction and other atrocities being perpetrated in Libya against Nigerians and other African women, men and children, and to collect and preserve evidence as well as clarify responsibility, including the potential complicity of any governments and non-state actors.
“Among Nigerians trapped in Libya is 21-year old Victory from Edo state, who told CNN that he was sold at slave auction market. Victory fled home and spent a year and four months—and his life savings—trying to reach Europe.
“In a video obtained by CNN, three men were auctioned off to a buyer as “big strong boys for farm work” and were sold for $400 apiece. The men, one of them identified as a Nigerian, are victims of a growing industry of slave markets operating in several locations in Libya.”
“In a case involving the Republic of Niger, the ECOWAS Court of Justice stated that ‘slavery is considered as a serious violation of human dignity and is formally prohibited by all international human rights instruments. Other instruments, such as the European Convention of Human Rights (Art.1 para. 1), the American Convention of Human Rights (Art. 6), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Art. Para. 1.2 ratified by the Republic of Niger) make prohibition of slavery an inviolable right, that is to say an absolute and non-derogable right.”