In a bid to foster professional human rights research and documentation in Nigeria, the Human Rights Volunteer Initiative (HURVI) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) collaborated to host a 2-day training on Investigation, Monitoring and Reporting (#IMR) of Human Rights in Abuja, Nigeria on the 30th – 31st of May 2013. The training sought to develop the skills of young human rights volunteers to effectively conduct research and investigation into human rights abuses and report violations in a professional and objective manner. The training also focused on how young human rights advocates can monitor and report rights violations using regional and international mechanisms like the African Commission on Human & People’s Rights, Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS, Universal Periodic Review, etc.
The #IMR2013 training is coming on the heels of increasing human rights violations and unprecedented incident of unreported cases of violation in Nigeria. The recent killings in Baga, Bornu state allegedly by the multinational force comprising personnel from Chad, Niger and Nigeria; the government’s ban on #FuellingPoverty, a documentary on corruption in Nigeria; extrajudicial killings and continuous torture of detainees; innumerable cases of rape and sexual assault; etc, underscores the ardent need to build citizens’ capacity to investigate, monitor and report in a professional and impartial manner. Since perpetuators of human rights abuses are more inclined to cover up or deny their acts of violation, effective fact-finding, monitoring and documentation is crucial to uncover the extent of violations and later give rise to a cause of action in enforcement of such rights.
Thirty-five of over 500 young volunteers who signed up online to become HURVI volunteers and human rights advocates were selected to participate in the maiden #IMR training. The training drew participants from law firms, NYSC, youth civil society organizations, media organizations, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Legal Aid Council.
While delivering opening remarks HURVI’s #RightsAlert Manager, Cynthia Mbamalu, welcomed participants and thanked OSIWA for supporting the training. According to her, HURVI ultimately aims to reduce the level and impact of human rights abuses by empowering youths with necessary human rights knowledge and skills to become human rights advocates and build a community of volunteer young professionals who will intervene in cases of human rights violations. As volunteers sign up under HURVI there is a great need to develop their capacity for effective delivery of human rights in Nigeria. She opined that training will ultimately improve the quality of human rights investigation and reporting in Nigeria. Speaking on behalf of the OSIWA Mr. Udo Jude Ilo, OSIWA Country Officer for Nigeria, expressed the delight of the Open Society Foundations in partnering with HURVI to host the #IMR2013 training. He expressed OSIWA’s commitment to human rights protection in Nigeria and Africa. He reiterated the need for young people to consistently engage the democratic process in a more strategic and visible manner.
The participants received presentations from seasoned and experienced members of the #IMR2013 faculty who facilitated sessions based on the #IMR2013 module. Members of the #IMR2013 faculty included; Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman, Governing Council NHRC; Mr. Idris Bawa, Principal Legal Officer, NHRC; Mr. Saka Azimazi, Executive Secretary, Network of National Human Rights Institution of West Africa; Mrs. Oti Ovraweh, Director, Human Rights Institute; Mr. Tony Anene-Maidoh, Chief Registrar, Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS; Mr. Stanley Ibe, Associate Legal Officer, Open Society Justice Initiative, Mr. Kenneth Mozea, Deputy Director, Legal Aid Council; Mr. Pascal Hooliger, Human Rights & Security Officer, Embassy of Switzerland; and Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, Chair, Partners for Electoral Reform.
Specifically, the training covered topics like understanding the human rights landscape in Nigeria; human rights standards (national and international); basic principles of human rights research; information gathering and fact-finding; monitoring specific human rights issues like rape, extrajudicial killing, torture, forced evictions and demolitions; conducting interviews; reporting using national, sub-regional, regional and international mechanisms. The module also covered such other topics like working with human rights institutions and the challenges associated with human rights advocacy.
In addition, the participants were also trained on how to use HURVI online human rights Ushahidi reporting platform on www.hurvi.org. The training evolved with a resolution by the trainees to jointly work together in monitoring and documenting human rights violations in an effective and professional manner. The participants were also tasked to write and publish an article on a specific human right issue and articulate recommendations for effective enforcement using the knowledge gained at the training. At the end of the training, two write-ups titled: Rape in Nigeria: The need for Legal reforms and Fighting Sexual Abuse: The role of parents, were forwarded by the participants for publication after external review. The articles will be published online on selected web platforms. Participants are also expected to receive certificates at the end of a three month period of practical work on human rights with application of the knowledge gained during the #IMR2013 training.
With the success of the conduct of the first session of #IMR2013 training, HURVI plans to conduct similar trainings across other cities in Nigeria for its growing team of volunteers.
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