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Amnesty International urges end to anti-gay arrests in Nigeria

Amnesty International on Jan. 15 called on the Nigerian government to release the more than 10 people arrested under a new law that the group said "runs roughshod over a range of human rights and discriminates based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

The arrests were made in several Nigerian states, including Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Oyo states after President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act into law.

"Those arrested under this draconian new legislation must be released immediately and the charges against them dropped. Locking someone up for their sexual orientation violates the most basic human rights standards,” said Makmid Kamara, Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher, in a news release. “Reports that the police in one state are apparently drawing up lists of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community to target are extremely worrying.” 

This law is a throwback to the worst of the military rule-era when a range of human rights were treated with contempt, said Amnesty.

Those arrested under the new law included five allegedly gay men who were taken into custody in in Ibadan, Oyo state. In the southeastern city of Awka, Anambra state, six persons were reportedly arrested and detained by the police.

Human rights defenders told Amnesty International that the arrests and intimidation of LGBTI people in Nigeria is expanding across the country. 

Human rights defenders also told Amnesty International that police in northern Bauchi state have drawn up a list of 167 people targeted for arrest based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. 

An assistant commissioner of police in Bauchi confirmed to Amnesty that the police have a list of suspected LGBTI people in Bauchi as part of their “profiling of criminals,” He told the human rights group, “The police have a list of suspected gay people under surveillance. We use the list to conduct our surveillance but the names on the list are not up to 167. We also use it to find out who their victims are.” 

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to stop all further arrests. 

The law criminalizes freedom of speech, association, and assembly and it criminalizes the activities of many human rights and civil society organizations. It provides for a ten year prison sentence for anyone who supports, meets with, or forms a group advocating for human rights for LGBTI people.

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