Amnesty International has demanded the unconditional release of author and human rights activist Maryam Awaisu.
Awaisu, one of the leaders of the #ArewaMeToo movement, which is seeking justice for victims of sexual harassment, was reportedly arrested by operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in her office in Kaduna on Tuesday.
A statement by the Media Manager of AI Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, said the arrest appeared to be an attempt to intimidate her and supporters of the movement.
“Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Maryam Aiwasu who has done nothing more than speaking up for women’s rights,” Osai Ojigho Director Amnesty International was quoted as saying.
“Her arrest appears to be an attempt to intimidate and harass both her and other women supporting #AreweMeToo – a movement seeking justice for victims of sexual violence in Nigeria.”
Ojigho added, “While arresting Maryam, the police attempted to gain access to her laptop and mobile phone by force; this is clearly an effort to access the sensitive evidence she and other human rights defenders have been gathering to seek justice for victims of sexual violence.”
For the Amnesty International Director, the arrest is unacceptable as it might prevent victims of sexual violence from seeking justice.
“Maryam and the other brave human rights defenders working with the #AreweMeToo movement must not be silenced or punished for the vital work they do,” he said.
“For too long, Nigeria’s women have been facing various kinds of sexual violence that seldom receives proper attention from the country’s law enforcement agencies.
“It is unacceptable that women working on behalf of these victims are subjected to such arrest and intimidation, and we fear that these actions may prevent victims of sexual violence from pursuing justice.”