IHEU protests attack in Nigeria

  • Date / 3 August 2009

In a letter sent to the Nigerian High Commission in the UK, IHEU’s President Sonja Eggerickx has protested at the attack on Leo Igwe last week. Other protests are also being sent by IHEU Member Organizations. We have the texts here.

The IHEU letter reads:

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. It is the sole world umbrella organisation embracing humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, Ethical Culture, freethought and similar organisations worldwide. Founded in Amsterdam in 1952, it is a democratic union of over 100 Member Organisations in 40 countries. Dr Julian Huxley (first Director of UNESCO) presided over the first Congress. That Congress agreed the Amsterdam Declaration that was reaffirmed at the 50th anniversary Congress in 2002. The third point in the Declaration states that “Humanism supports democracy and human rights” and the fourth point says ”Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility”. Currently, I have the honour of being IHEU President.

IHEU employs Mr Leo Igwe as one of two Consultants in Africa with the task of helping to promote humanism in the African continent. Mr Igwe is based in Nigeria and as part of his work for IHEU, he organised a symposium this week on witchcraft and child rights in Calabar in Nigeria. According to an eye-witness account, about two hundred members of Liberty Gospel Church stormed the venue of the symposium on Thursday, 30 July. They attacked Mr Igwe, took his bag, his camera and his mobile phone as well as destroying his spectacles. Liberty Gospel Church, led by Helen Akpabio, has been alleged to have held ‘trials’ of children suspected of being witches and many of these children have been killed after having been found guilty by such ‘trials’.

This unprovoked attack on Mr Igwe who was holding a lawful meeting as part of his IHEU duties was clearly designed to prevent him from exercising his right to express his views and is contrary to all accepted standards of civilised behaviour. On behalf of Mr Igwe and of IHEU, I ask you to take up this example of violent intolerance by people intent on denying free speech. I feel sure that you will agree that the physical attack on Mr Igwe is totally abhorrent in any modern society

The following letter was sent by the Libre Pensee Francaise: (English translation with French original below)

To the ambassador of Nigeria in Paris

Your Excellency,

The French Federation of Freethinkers, full member of IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union), has been informed about serious incidents which happended on July 29th in Calabar, Nigeria.
A symposium organised mainly by the Nigerian Humanist Movement on Child Rights and Witchcraft Related Abuse has been attacked by about 150 to 200 members of “Liberty Gospel Church” led by Helen Akpabio. They seriously disturbed the symposium by exercising violence on participants, in particular against Leo Igwe, direct IHEU representative, taking away his bag, camera and mobile phone and destroying his glasses, in a determined arrack lasting for nearly an hour.
A video is available at: https://humanists.international/iheu-representative-attacked

A team of police took some time to restore peace at the conference venue, and the conferece finally went on.

Leo Igwe, based in Nigeria, is the permanent delegate of IHEU in West Africa, and its representative at ACHPR (African Commission on Human and Peoples’Right).

The French Federation of Freethinkers, committed to freedom of expression, stongly condemns this terrorist attack, and ask you to transfer to the Nigerian Government our wishes to see the so-called organisation “Liberty Gospel Church” put in the impossible to start again such kind of attack.

Hoping that you will give a positive suite to our demand, we offer you our respectful greetings.


Courrier pour l’Ambassade du Nigéria à Paris

Monsieur l’Ambassadeur,

La Fédération Nationale de la Libre Pensée, organisation membre de l’IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union), vient de recevoir des informations sur les graves incidents survenus le 29 Juillet à Calabar, Nigeria.

Une conférence organisée notamment par le Mouvement Humaniste Nigérian, sur la question de la sorcellerie et du droit des enfants, a été attaquée par environ 150 personnes excitées, se réclamant de la « Liberty Gospel Church » dirigée par Helen Akpabio. Ils ont sévèrement perturbé la conférence par des violences contre les participants, et ont en particulier malmené le représentant direct de l’IHEU, Leo Igwe. D’après les témoins, ils lui ont arraché son sac, son appareil photo et son téléphone portable ; ils lui ont cassé ses lunettes.
L’attaque a duré une heure, et une vidéo est disponible sur le site de l’IHEU :

IHEU representative attacked

Cette attaque a finalement été stoppée par l’intervention de la police, et la conférence a pu se tenir.

Leo Igwe, basé au Nigéria, est le délégué permanent de l’IHEU pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest, et son représentant auprès de l’ACHPR (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights).

La Fédération Nationale de la Libre Pensée, attachée à la liberté d’expression, condamne fermement cette opération terroriste, et vous demande de transmettre au Gouvernement du Nigéria notre souhait de voir l’organisation dite « Liberty Gospel Church » mise dans l’impossibilité de recommencer de telles attaques.

En espérant que vous pourrez donner une suite positive à cette demande, nous vous présentons nos respectueuses salutations.

Pour la FNLP


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