In her first visit to Nigeria, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive], on Friday praised [press release] the country for the significant development in protecting human rights, while urging further protection against conflict, poverty and corruption. Calling the issues of the country the "most daunting set of challenges for decades," Pillay stressed the importance of human rights protections as the country transitions to democracy. Regarding the violence of Boko Haram [JURIST news archive] in the north east, Pillay stated that it is "vital that government forces do not exacerbate the problem by taking actions that displace, endanger or kill civilians." Pillay stated that to combat widespread corruption, everyone must "pull together, and push each other, to tackle this scourge, which is holding back the development of the country, and undermining many people's social and economic rights." After commending the country's efforts to combat human trafficking, Pillay expressed her concern for a number of groups, specifically women and children, that still remain vulnerable to human rights violations.
Friday's remarks were not the first call to improve Nigerian human rights protections. Amnesty International [advocacy website] in October urged the Nigerian government to investigate the deaths [JURIST report] of hundreds of people detained by the country's military Joint Task Force. Also in October a rights group within Nigeria, the Socio-Economic and Rights Accountability Project, filed a petition [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate an attack at a school in northeast Nigeria. In August the ICC announced an investigation [JURIST report] into crimes against humanity committed by Boko Haram. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions condemned [JURIST report] the Nigerian government for the alleged execution of four men in June.