Human Rights Watch published on Tuesday a damning 32-page report into November’s violence in the northern city of Kaduna, saying police and soldiers had shot indiscriminately during a riot, which left 220 people dead.
“Not only did the security forces fail to intervene at the first signs of violence, bu they contributed significantly to the violence by killing and injuring people who were not posing any threat,” said Executive Director of the Africa division of HRW.
The Nigerian police chief’s spokesman, however, denied the charges. Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Olakpe admitted tear gas was used during the disturbances but denied that live rounds were fired at protesters.
Anger was high last November in Nigeria over the beauty show, which some Muslim leaders said was offensive and should not have been brought to the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The rights group did not blame
Riots erupted after Muslims protested over an article on the pageant in a local newspaper which many deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.
After the rioting spread to the capital Abuja, where around 100 beauty queens were preparing for the spectacle, the 2002 pageant was withdrawn from Nigeria and relocated to London.
But Human Rights Watch attached no blame to the show’s organisers.
Two years earlier more than 2,000 people had been killed in Kaduna in clashes between Christians and Muslims over the re-introduction of Sharia Islamic law into Kaduna state following the end of military rule.
The report said one of the most serious allegations included the execution of eight men. Eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch that police and military tied the victims together and shot them at close range.