Double Standards on Human Rights?

Article excerpt

The Queen, Tony Blair and 50 other prime ministers and presidents are flying into the Nigerian capital, Abuja, for the Commonwealth summit. There will be no place for Robert Mugabe at the summit table. Zimbabwe, suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002, was not invited. So before they start their meetings, perhaps the Commonwealth leaders should look around their host country, which, among other things, shelters Liberia's ex-president Charles Taylor, indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, who took power in 1999, the Nigerian military and police have killed hundreds; others have died in intercommunal conflicts that the government has done little or nothing to address. In one case, the army killed more than 200 villagers in reprisal for an incident in which an armed group attacked and killed 19 soldiers. The "Miss World riots" in the northern city of Kaduna last year were portrayed as senseless religious violence. It was rarely mentioned that the police killed dozens during the riots, which were prompted by political, not religious, tensions.

Thanks to its oil reserves, Nigeria could be a wealthy country. Instead politicians amass vast sums in their personal accounts, while the great majority of Nigerians live in extreme poverty.

In the spring, Obasanjo was returned to power in elections during which EU observers noted serious irregularities and fraud, and both the ruling party and its opponents sent out armed thugs to assault their rivals. Yet the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, described the elections as a "landmark in the advancement of Nigeria's democracy" and, although more than 100 people were killed, welcomed the "relative calm" in which they took place. …